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Grant to improve analytics and operational research in health care

Posted on May 12th 2017

The Modelling and Simulation in Healthcare Network (MASHNet), led by PenCHORD Director, Professor Martin Pitt, has been awarded £19,500 from The Health Foundation to set up a UK-wide initiative to promote the effective use of operational research (OR) and advanced analytic methods in health and social care services.

The PLETHORA Project (Planning for Effective Transformation of Healthcare using Operational Research and Advanced Analytics) will develop a structured plan to build the capacity and expertise needed to apply these key research techniques within the NHS.

Combining the skills and experience of clinicians, academics and technologists from across the country, PLETHORA aims to raise awareness of the benefits of analytics and OR amongst health and social care professionals.

The project's steering committee includes representatives from 13 organisations including The Health Foundation, NHS England and Wales, and several UK universities, and is chaired by Professor Pitt, who said of the initiative:

"This unique opportunity brings together key stakeholders in advanced analytics and operational research for health from across the UK. The initiative will aim to define the basis for the effective application of these methods, and build NHS staff capacity and capability, in order to improve decision making in the delivery of health and care services."

Advanced analytics and operational research – looking at ways to improve how a service or process works using techniques such as computer modelling – has the potential to improve patient flow, capacity,
safety, efficiency and quality of care in the NHS. However, there are a number of issues and challenges that prevent them being used effectively, including a lack of high-quality data and sufficient numbers of staff with the necessary skills and experience to use these techniques.

Building on an agenda developed at a workshop led by MASHNet and The Health Foundation, the PLETHORA team plan to organise a series of workshops, seminars and conference events for health care professionals in order to boost awareness and understanding of these methods and how to apply them.

They will also work with health care organisations to carry out research into the current use of OR and analytics, and provide practical recommendations for improvements. This will involve networking and collaboration to bring health care professionals and research organisations together, building on the experience of existing projects such as PenCLAHRC’s Health Service Modelling Associates programme.

The first official committee meeting will be held in London on 23rd May and the project will run until July 2018, culminating in a national conference to showcase good practice in applied analytics and OR for healthcare.