National Health Service, Strategy Group, England (Co-Sponsored with the Harvard Global Health Institute)

Please Note: This internship is co-sponsored. This means that the funding for this internship is provided by two institutions at Harvard. The Primary Affiliation is with HGHI, and the Secondary Affiliation is with the IOP. The primary institute will be the point of contact during the application and internship onboarding process, and applications for this placement will be processed by the HGHI.

Please note HGHI’s application instructions to ensure you meet all the requirements. The intern selected for this internship will have the benefits and obligations of an intern in both of programs.

NHS England leads the National Health Service (NHS) in England. It sets the priorities and direction of the NHS and informs the national debate to improve health and care. NHS England shares out more than £100 billion in funds and holds organisations to account for spending this money effectively for patients and efficiently for the tax payer. It also directly commissions certain services such as primary care and specialised services.

We work closely with central government including the Department of Health, Department of Work and Pensions, the Office for Life Sciences and others. We also have a good relationship with national bodies responsible for the regulation of health and care, health research and local government.

NHS England sets the strategic vision for the NHS and works with partners and regional teams to deliver that vision: getting serious about prevention, identifying and delivering improvements in health care, redesigning the NHS so it continues to meet the needs of patients, ensuring the NHS is financially sustainable and engaging the public in this whole process.


Summer Project

The intern will be working in a team that has three key functions, including:

  • delivery of national demonstrator programmes to accelerate implementation of national priorities and transformative initiatives set out in the Five Year Forward View, and the soon to be published Long Term Plan
  • development of strategic pieces of work and methodologies to support NHS England’s senior management team in their decision-making,
  • facilitation, influencing and co-ordination of policies and stakeholders across the healthcare sector to reach consensus or agree action on key issues.

The intern will be assigned to work on one or more of the team projects in train in May 2019 and we expect that their role will involve aspects of each of the key functions set out above.


Successful delivery may entail:

1. Project scoping: conducting desk research, interviews with internal and external stakeholders, and designing and administering questionnaires

2. Project management: managing own work (from inception to end product) and contribute to wider team projects including drafting project plans and stakeholder engagement plans

3. Analysis: synthesizing evidence and analysis to build logical narratives and insight and use these to write briefing papers

4. Communicating findings: Producing deliverables such as written accounts of their projects and presenting their findings to their immediate team, the wider team and external stakeholders

5. Relationship management: building effective relationships within the organization to achieve shared goals


No specific requirements. However, skills in doing literature reviews, basic qualitative and quantitative analysis, PowerPoint and event design will be beneficial. Experience of facilitating group discussions and managing stakeholder communications would also be welcome but not essential. An understanding of and interest in the UK health system would be welcome.

Work assignments may be flexed to reflect specific skillsets as appropriate.

Work Environment

The Strategy Group is directed by Emily Hough and sits in the NHS England Strategy and Innovation Directorate. The team was central to the creation of the NHS England’s contribution to the 2015 Five Year Forward View, the overall strategy that set out the change we need to see in order to transform the health and care system in a sustainable way. The team is now critical in supporting delivery against this strategy and is made up of about 35-40 people, coming from various professional backgrounds including: local government, health policy think tanks, government civil service, consultancies, social finance and medical professions.

The current team projects include long term strategy pieces such as working alongside the Department of Health on Brexit and its impact on the NHS, working with demonstrators to create healthier NHS workforces, testing out how new housing developments can improve health, and piloting new innovations to improve patient outcomes and reducing overall costs through combinatorial innovation. There are also shorter-term consultancy style pieces of work on a variety of topics, such as articulating NHS England’s strategy for research and innovation or evaluating the impact of other policy initiatives. Most projects involve working with a range of stakeholders across the NHS and the wider health and care sector.


On a scale of 0 to 5, the level of internship supervision from very little (0) to a great deal (5) will be a 4.

The Strategy Group has a matrix management system and the intern will be supported by a project manager and will also have pastoral support from a line manager. In addition to weekly 1:1s with both project and line managers, they will also have fortnightly check-ins with their mentor.


2019 Intern Reflection:

My time at NHS England has been incredibly eye-opening and educational. The Strategy Team is working on really innovative projects, from Healthy New Towns (which focuses on place-making and building healthier communities) to the Sustainable Development Unit (which works to reduce the NHS's carbon footprint) to the Autism Program (which seeks to improve diagnosis and personalized care for autistic individuals). Everyone around the office is extremely open, friendly, and willing to share details about their own experiences and work. A typical day in office usually involves communicating with key stakeholders (from non-profit leaders to academics to clinicians), conducting desk research to learn about the tools and evidence at hand, and discussing strategies to implement the proposals under consideration. I'm working on the Autism Program and focusing on how we might pilot the introduction of "Health Checks", or specific appointments for autistic individuals that monitor, target, and care for their health vulnerabilities in order to eliminate existing health gaps.

Outside of the Strategy Team, I've also had the opportunity to attend Health and Social Care Committee Meetings in Parliament, to visit the University College London Hospital, and to talk to other teams within the NHS (Communications, Genomics, Personalized Care, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Finance). I am learning a lot about the process of formulating and delivering health policy, as well as the structure of the National Health Service as a whole. As an American and as someone interested in healthcare reform, I think it is a really valuable experience to immerse oneself in a health system that is run so differently than that of the U.S. It is one thing to read about the NHS in textbooks and articles, but to actually work within the organization itself allows a holistic understanding of what it really takes for a nation to run a health system that is free for all of its residents and that cares deeply about population health.

Katelyn Li '21

2018 Intern Reflection:

This summer internship with NHS England’s Strategy Group has been one of the best and most enriching experiences I have had. Going into this job, I had certain expectations – each of which has been far exceeded. Rather than being given some small side project to work on for the duration of our placement, I have had the opportunity to work on complex and substantial projects. I am primarily based on two project teams: Health and Work, which supports the implementation of a clinical trial centred in two sites with a total of 12,000 participants that aims to investigate the impact of a new employment service on helping disabled individuals find meaningful work, and Healthy New Towns, which coordinates 10 Demonstrator Sites to test how new housing developments can improve health and deploy new models of care. My role has been a combination of coordinating workshops and ministerial site launches to boost trial referrals, drafting reports and conducting quantitative and qualitative analyses, and creating a policy guidance document to aid NHS bodies in the funding and development of local integrated health hubs. I enjoy working with a variety of governmental bodies and appreciate being able to contribute to policy work that will aid the improvement of healthcare delivery across the country.

Even more so than the work, I enjoy the culture and the people of the Strategy Group. This team is comprised of a diverse range of brilliant and engaging people who produce quality work and make the workplace a collaborative and thought-provoking environment. The culture here promotes equal contribution and each team I have worked with has treated me as an equal contributor to our project. They value hard work, curiosity, and a willingness to explore new options – which inspires me to work harder and push myself every day. Beyond that, my colleagues are kind and are eager to make sure that I get the most out of my summer internship. They have arranged for me to meet with senior analysts at The King’s Fund and other think tanks, clinicians at a local hospital, and even high-ranking NHS officials. As someone with more of a biological research background, I was concerned that my minimal policy experience would be a challenging learning curve to overcome; however, I am fortunate to have been given the proper support every step of the way and have grown so much in my time here. I know that any students with interest in public health, despite their background experience in policy, will find the Strategy Group a nurturing and inspiring place to work.

Sanjana Rane '20

2017 Intern Reflections:

I am working on the Test Beds program within the Strategy Group at NHS England. The Test Beds program involves a collection of seven sites pioneering the use of integrated digital health technologies in their hospital systems, clinics, and pharmacies by working directly with innovators from industry. The program is now in its evaluation phase, and I am responsible for using qualitative and quantitative research methods to consolidate key learnings and analyze the thematic implications of the program. Through my analysis, I am working to understand the bearing of the NHS Test Beds program on health services research, and how we can apply what we've learned from this program to inject digital health innovation in other health systems through a unique industry-system-patient collaborative model.

Pooja Chandrashekar '18 

Throughout college, I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of all the internships I’ve done. This summer at NHS England’s Strategy Group truly stands out however. I came in thinking it would be an interesting but “standard” internship - i.e. working on one main project in-depth for the summer, with occasional side tasks. Instead, my work has only gotten more exciting and diverse over time. Based in the Healthy Workforce team, I have dug into the economic, clinical, and commercial factors governing out-of-hours healthy food barriers for NHS staff; participated in site visits/stakeholder roundtables to observe how the massive problem of health worker sickness absence is being addressed in hospitals; and helped refine an economic incentive scheme/”minimum offer” of NHS staff health and wellbeing initiatives that will be offered nationally. Every amount of energy and curiosity I’ve put in has been returned twofold in the form of deeper policy knowledge, project management exposure, and analytic/communications skill-building.

The Strategy Group is fueled by people with the drive and expertise to drive improvement at the highest level of the health system, This provides any intern with the ideal mix of exposure and opportunity to meaningfully contribute. I’ve been able to hear from a clinician at the frontline of implementing the Strategy Group’s Elective Care Program, describing how she helped reduce a man’s medication from 14 pills to 4 a day through a rapid-testing quality improvement initiative. At the same time, I and Pooja (the other Harvard intern) have also been invited to give a presentation to the group on recent developments in American health policy. The culture of the Strategy Group is one that thrives on an openness to personal exploration - that willingness to take on projects with a steep learning curve and collaborate with people from diverse professional backgrounds. As someone coming from an economics and public health background, I am confident that students with similar interests will find the Strategy Group to be a fantastic platform for broadening their skill set and learning more about public/private sector collaboration. As someone with a deep passion for policy and medicine, it has been a profoundly eye-opening experience to see the cross-cutting social effects of the NHS’s actions as a care provider, employer, and political issue. Coming out of this summer, I am sure that I am much better prepared to conduct research, manage complex projects, and contribute to health policy discussions at Harvard and beyond - and I’m sure any engaged intern will end their time with NHS England’s Strategy Group feeling the same way.

Antonia Chan '18

London, England