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The Midlands Decision Support Network comprises 12 Decision Support Units across the Midlands region, working in partnership to, address three key challenges:

  • How do we support integrated care systems (ICSs) to make high-quality strategic decisions?
  • How do we support each ICS to become a learning system?
  • How do we build the capacity, capability and culture needed to make this happen?

Revised DSU Flower


Each Midlands ICS is developing a team, a ‘Decision Support Unit’ (DSU) which is focused on supporting the key strategic decisions faced by each system. Examples of the kinds of questions they will provide insight on include:

  • The most significant inequalities and how they might be addressed
  • Inequitable distribution of resource and how this might be rebalanced
  • Understanding variation and using this to target improvement efforts and drive innovation 
  • Systematic exploration of the thoughts and beliefs of the population served and, frontline staff delivering services
  • Interaction between health and care systems and the wider economy

Each DSU is:

  • A locally-led, system resource which draws on and supports a breadth of organisations, including commissioners, healthcare providers and, local authorities
  • Clearly separated from day-to-day reporting and routine business intelligence - instead focused on supporting major strategic decisions at system level
  • Led by a Chief Analyst and comprising multidisciplinary team, including skills in quantitative and qualitative  analysis, evidence and knowledge mobilisation and evaluation

For more details, see our Design principles for the analytical functions of DSUs


Each DSU is part of a wider network across the region in order to, maximise opportunities for sharing, learning and collaboration. The network is supported by the Strategy Unit which is supporting the development of DSUs through:

  • Training and development programme
  • Regional analytical programme
  • Active knowledge exchange and support for local DSU development
  • Lead Analyst: Steven Wyatt 

    The regional analytical programme will lead the development of at least three major analytical projects per year on behalf of the region, publishing bespoke system reports and providing support for knowledge mobilisation and application of findings across local systems. The programme will also give access to underpinning materials and support for local analytical teams to conduct further work.

    We have started to launch the findings from our 2020/21 analytics projects:

    For each project, there will be a regional report and a report for each ICS. We will also publish the code that was used to generate the analysis to enable local systems to replicate the analysis. The findings will be presented to the system at a regional webinar, as well as presenting the technical details of the projects to the Midlands Analysts Network. We are also planning a series of locally tailored workshops to support local systems in their action planning to help them to respond to findings. 



    You can read the full Inequities in children and young people’s mental health services report here

  • Programme Lead: Mohammed Mohammed

    The training and development programme has been developed in consultation with the members of the decision support unit network. We started the programme in September 2020 with our systems dynamics Action Learning Set. We are using a range of training methods, with a strong focus on supporting local systems to apply their learning to their own area of work.

    We have an exciting programme of training planned for 2021/22:

    • System dynamics for analysts
    • Leadership development for analysts
    • Population health management for analysts
    • Evaluating complex interventions for analysts
    • Decision quality and critical thinking for leaders

    We are developing a more detailed prospectus of our training opportunities and will share this soon. We have received highly positive feedback on our 2020/21 events - see our summary of the initial round of delivery of our leadership development for analysts programme.

Active Knowledge Exchange

We co-ordinate three networks to support our local Decision Support Units - the Midlands Analyst Network, the Midlands Evaluation Network and the Midlands Knowledge & Evidence Network.

  • Lead: Rachel Caswell

    The Midlands Analyst Network, was established in April 2020 and provides a space for analysts across the Midlands to share information, ideas and resources, as well as seek advice and guidance from one another.

    The Midlands Analyst Network Huddles are held fortnightly online. The huddles have covered a large range of topics and you are welcome to join one at any time. We try to keep them as informal but as informative as possible and welcome contributions for Network members as well from academia, subject specialists, national and occasionally international presenters.

    Recent and upcoming events include:

    • Inequalities in access to planned care: causes and consequences
    • Introducing the Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMA) Programme - a training opportunity
    • Inequalities in Access to Mental Health Services for Children and Young People
    • Classifying Outpatient Activity by Function
  • Leads: Paul MasonDavid Callaghan

    In 2020/21 we published our evaluation guide for the DSU. Building on this in 2021/22, the evaluation network has planned a series of seminars for anyone interested in developing their evaluation skills. The purpose of the training is to:

    • Promote better understanding of evaluation as essential to service improvement
    • Increase qualitative research skills alongside existing courses for Midlands analysts
    • Build capacity for evaluation as commissioners and/or internal projects

    These seminars are running throughout June and will be used to shape the plans for the evaluation network throughout 2021/22.

  • Lead: Alison Turner

    We are setting up the knowledge and evidence network, with a first meeting in June 2021. Work is underway to create a 'who’s who' of network members to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaborative working. We are planning training and development activities and would be interested to hear your views on what would be most useful. We are here to support evidence review and knowledge mobilisation throughout the DSU network and will be engaging in activities to develop:

    • A clear, transparent and explicit knowledge base
    • Capacity to use evidence within the DSU network
    • Proactive knowledge sharing
    • Awareness of knowledge gaps to inform evaluation/innovation
    • Sustainable collaborative learning

Supporting local DSU development

We are developing a range of resources to support local systems developing their local DSUs

For more information, please have a look at our latest newsletter:

How can I get involved?

If you want to find out more about the DSC programme, please contact our programme director Simon Bourne - Simonbourne@nhs.net

To find out about DSU development:

West Midlands please contact Gareth Wrench - Gareth.Wrench@nhs.net

East Midlands or NHS EI Directly Commissioned Services please contact Janine Dellar - Janine.Dellar@nhs.net


To find out more about our regional analytical programme, please contact our chief analyst Steve Wyatt, swyatt@nhs.net

To access our training and development programme, please contact Rachel Caswell Rachel.Caswell@nhs.net

And for more information on any of our networks please contact:

Midlands Analysts Network - Rachel Caswell, Rachel.Caswell@nhs.net

Evaluation Network - David Callaghan, David.Callaghan@nhs.net or Paul Mason paul.mason14@nhs.net

Evidence Network - Alison Turner, alison.turner14@nhs.net