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Doing the hard work to make good ideas real

Hello dear reader,

Today I am in Seattle. My wife, Fiona is pictured below with the iconic Space Needle.

Joe McDonald's wife, Fiona, standing below the Space Needle in Seattle.

She thought it would be fun for us to have dinner at the top, in the revolving Loupe Lounge, famous for its’ entirely transparent GLASS FLOOR. She knows, of course, that I harbour a terrible fear of heights and that my face will provide all the entertainment she needs for a fun-filled evening.

Sweating and white-knuckled, I inch my way to our table and sit down. ‘Don’t look down. Don’t look down’ I chant to myself. I google ‘space needle’ by way of a distraction while downing champagne as medication for my acrophobia. I learn that the tower was conceived on a napkin (pictured below) by Eddie Carlson the director of the 1962 World’s Fair. To get his napkin sketch to into 500 feet of towering reality wasn’t easy, but the clarity of the vision certainly helped.

Eddie Carlson's napkin sketch of the Space Needle.

Dinner in the restaurant has a Mexican theme tonight and after my third tequila, my fear has become manageable and less entertaining for Fiona. As the sun sets on Seattle I reflect on the dream I have shared with my colleagues at SARD. I’ve often said that being Medical Director of an NHS trust is like flying a jumbo jet through a storm cloud with zero visibility and no instruments. You can’t see where the problems are, who is working hard, who isn’t and you are lucky if you know how many staff you have, let alone whether they are doing what you need them to be doing to clear down the post-covid back-log.

“So what do you want, Joe?” ask my technical colleagues. Aware of Tom Loosemore’s motto ‘show the thing,’ I drew this on the back of an envelope:

Joe's sketch on the back of an envelope.

“Ah, we get it, you want to see all your important instrumentation to help you run the trust and, er, you presumably want it to look a little better than that?”

“Yeah, all at a glance, the important stuff, locum spend, leave, staff numbers, the lot.”

“Maybe like this?”

SARD Mission Control

“Yeah, that’s getting there, let’s get more user eyes on it and iterate.”

In my experience, all good software starts with a meeting of minds between what users actually need and what the developers can do. No one can sit in isolation and produce software to solve all your problems, nor is software alone ever going to be enough, which is why SARD’s exceptional approach to supporting customers first attracted me as a customer and now as their Medical Director.

We are looking to develop what trusts really need and adheres to the modular principles of openness and interoperability as espoused by the Public Money Public Code movement which was co-founded by SARD.

Many of you already have our appraisal module but we’d like more of you to join the modular interoperable workforce software revolution and help us iterate the tools the NHS needs to run itself properly. Uniquely SARD is part owned by the NHS. If you’re interested in joining the revolution drop me a line at