The Strategy Unit have been selected to be part of the latest round of the Health Foundation's Advancing Applied Analytics programme.


The programme aims to improve analytical capability in support of health and care services. In this third round of the programme, the Health Foundation is providing funding to 10 teams in the UK that are working on innovative projects that demonstrate the value of improving analytical capability in health and care. Each project will run for up to 15 months and will start in September 2019.


Our project “A multidisciplinary analytics action learning set to improve GP appointment systems using discrete event simulation” aims to improve GP appointment systems and access for patients.


GP Practices are facing growing demand for consultations and the 2018 National GP Patient Survey highlighted that patients have difficulty accessing GP services, with 3 in 10 patients finding it hard to get through on the phone. Currently most primary care appointment schedules are developed using ‘common sense’ approaches, however this is unlikely to be the most efficient method. Optimising GP appointment systems can improve patient satisfaction, reduce stress for patients and staff, reduced missed appointments, reduce costs and relieve pressure in the wider NHS.


We will be building analytical capacity in general practice by producing an applied skills development programme and a masterclass-webinar on the use of Discrete Event Simulation (DES) modelling in a GP setting. DES is a computer model that mimics the operations of a real, time-based system. It allows users to observe bottlenecks and look at the impact of changes before they are implemented in the practice i.e. changing flow of patients, increasing demand or changing staff rotas.


A DES model developed with a large multi-GP practice in the West Midlands will be used as a case study, demonstrating how DES can be used to re-design and improve the appointment system. The programme will be designed for analysts and practice staff to work together on their own projects which will enhance their understanding and improve access to more advanced modelling methods.


We will be working in partnership with Lion Health, Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit and Primary Care Networks. The development programme will be supported by experts from the University of Strathclyde and NHS Wales Modelling Collaborative.


  • Stacey Croft, Senior Healthcare Analyst at the Strategy Unit, said: 

“We’re delighted to be given this opportunity to build capacity in discrete event simulation. We will be bringing analysts and GP practice staff together to test out ways to improve access for patients.”


  • Martin Bardsley, Senior Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:

“Analysis is crucial as health and care services shape care pathways. It has a vital role to play in helping to improve quality and safety by identifying areas for improvement and monitoring service delivery, as well as highlighting whether service changes are effective at improving care for individual patients. Our Advancing Applied Analytics programme aims to help improve access to the right level of analytical skills by increasing capability and capacity. This is the third round of the programme and we have selected 10 innovative local projects that will demonstrate how better analysis can lead to better patient care. We look forward to working with the project teams to demonstrate the value of analytical skills in health and care.”