Case Studies

Discovery for NHS England’s national postgraduate trainee recruitment system

NHS England is responsible for the national postgraduate trainee recruitment system (Oriel), which is used to recruit postgraduate trainees. 

The current system is essential for recruitment in the fields of: Medical, Dental, Public Health, Pharmacy and Healthcare Science across all four UK nations. 

Project overview

The current Oriel system was procured four years ago and processes in excess of 95,000 applications annually. 

A discovery phase was commissioned to identify user needs across all user groups, to inform the requirements of the upcoming procurement of a new national recruitment system. 

Discovery research was particularly critical given the complex nature of the current system, with varying recruitment processes in existence across multiple professions and nations. 

Project goals

The main goals for the project were for the client to:

  • Understand the context for the current and future Oriel service (the business goals of NHS England, NHS workforce changes, recent and anticipated changes to the recruitment processes)
  • Understand and assess the current service by reviewing existing evidence (e.g. strategy, analytics, previous research) and identifying any gaps in the evidence
  • Identify the various user roles involved in the current system
  • Understand the experience of users of the current service (their aims, motivations, satisfaction, triggers and behaviours)
  • Identify, validate, and prioritise the needs of users, including unmet needs that a future service could meet
  • Understand the landscape for a future service, including the content, technology and data landscape that a future recruitment service will operate within
  • Articulate the opportunities revealed by the discovery (e.g. for service integrations) and any implications
  • Develop and test ideas (and concept prototypes) for ways to meet prioritised user needs in an improved service
  • Make recommendations and provide a plan to progress the service, following discovery (e.g. experiments to conduct/hypotheses to test in an alpha phase, and a roadmap)
  • Ensure knowledge handover to the in house service team, and the wider network of stakeholders

Project team

To deliver the necessary work, the Lagom project team consisted of a dedicated Discovery Lead, Delivery Manager, Service Designer, Content and Strategy Lead, and User Researcher and Digital Inclusion Lead.

What we did

We carried out a wide range of research activities with users and stakeholders of the service. 


Our user research allowed us to identify an extensive set of met and unmet user needs for a future postgraduate trainee recruitment service. Some of these needs applied to a future system, whilst others extended beyond a system to the recruitment system as a whole. 

The user needs were supplemented by stakeholder views about wider opportunities that could be realised through this work, as the organisation attempts to align with the strategy set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. Notably, these aspirations included better recruitment for less than full time staff and a better experience for appointable candidates who do not get a post. 

This research informed a series of codesign workshops with administrators and applicants to explore potential solutions for a future service. All of this enabled us to develop a set of criteria for a minimum viable product going forward, alongside a potential service blueprint. 

Project outcomes

The project provided the client with a practical set of recommendations to progress towards a new service, including a roadmap towards a suggested Alpha phase. 

Work is currently ongoing to complete a set of recommended pre-Alpha activities before the team formally progresses to an Alpha phase. 


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