Some thoughts from UKHealthCamp 2015


On Saturday 28th November it was UKHealthCamp 2015 – a free ‘unconference’ for everyone interested in digital, design, technology and data for health and care following the style of the successful UKGovCamps.

It was organised by @sheldonline, @thatdavidmiller, @puntofisso, @aliceainsworth, @drcjar and @tonyyates and hosted at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – they did a fantastic job and I could feel the buzz from everyone at the end of the day. 

A couple of things stuck with me whilst I was on the train home so I’m capturing them before they get nudged out by my next shopping list or I get distracted by some animated GIF.

I attended @GlynRJones‘ session titled ‘What do we know?’ – a discussion about how we can best share what we’ve learnt within the digital health community – I feel events like this are one of the best ways we can do that.

We need to learn from the ‘evil suppliers’ (at least some of them)
The ‘big NHS IT suppliers’ may not be the answer to delivering our next generation digital services for the NHS, but I do believe they need to feature in our discovery work so that we make sure we learn from their years of experience.

I blogged more about this here.

People really care about data sharing and data protection, but it’s not the only conversation we need to have
In no way should the conversation around data ownership, privacy, and protection be minimised. However it’s become the default conversation when the topic of data sharing within the NHS is raised; people feel really strongly about it but it can sometimes hinder conversations about doing things differently. 

I blogged more about this here.

Integration within health and care is all over the place and there is a disconnect somewhere (and I don’t mean the one between the systems)
Integration and interoperability are hot topics in the NHS at the moment. Most people accept that neither one-size-fits-all systems, nor disconnected ‘best-of-breed’ systems are the answer to a joined-up NHS. People providing care in the NHS want the systems they use to be more joined up yet there are tools which have existed for 5 years or more that still haven’t been utilised (e.g. the Summary Care Record). Why is that? Is it too hard to do? Is it too expensive to do? Or is in fact the benefit not real? 

I’m going to write a bit more about my thoughts on these things over the next few days.

The “datetime.datetime not JSON serializable” thing

I hit this every time I start a new project involving APIs and data stored in PostgreSQL; and every time I spend ages googling to try and remember how to fix it.

The issue is that psycopg2 returns datetime.datetime types from database timestamp fields, which then can’t be converted when calling jsonify() on the returned dictionary.

There are actually quite a few ways to solve this and I’ve tended to use whichever one seems to hurt my head the least at the time…

Previously I’ve used the following method:

class DateEncoder(JSONEncoder):
def default(self, obj):
if isinstance(obj,
return obj.isoformat()
return JSONEncoder.default(self, obj)

But this time I discovered it can actually be as simple as:

json_friendly_date = meany_datetime_type.isoformat()

.isoformat() returns you a nice ISO8601 complaint string which will then jsonify() nicely

>> datetime.datetime(2015, 11, 9, 20, 30, 00).isoformat()