Process modelling and simulation

New models of care, particularly those that differ significantly from existing ones, can be risky to implement. You might look for evidence of similar models working elsewhere but these are not always forthcoming. If you do find examples, they may not be directly applicable to your own setting, particularly where the model is novel. Pilot projects to test out new services can be costly, disruptive, time consuming and may not reveal the real impact of the service on the rest of the healthcare economy. Modelling the new service and simulating its operation is one approach you should consider in order to gain understanding of its performance and impact on other parts of the healthcare system.

Until recently, developing such simulation models has been the province of simulation specialists skilled in the use of technical software tools. Perhaps because of this, modelling and simulation is infrequently used in healthcare (in contrast to many other industrial sectors where it is the norm), so there are very few staff in the NHS who possess the skills necessary to develop models and simulate them. Despite this, there is an increasing awareness of such techniques and demand is growing across the NHS for help in modelling and simulation to support strategic decision-making.

The NHS Institute is responding to this demand by:

  • ensuring that the NHS is aware of appropriate techniques and how they are best applied – including a briefing paper prepared for the NHS Institute: Simulation for strategic planning in health care - the state of the art Simulation for strategic planning in health care - the state of the art (1.41 MB)
  • helping to build capability in the use of modelling and simulation for decision making
  • supporting the community of modelling and simulation practitioners already working in the NHS
  • developing the scenario generator simulation tool to support strategic planning and commissioning
  • offering expertise and support to NHS organisations wishing to use scenario generator for strategic planning and service improvement.