A multidisciplinary analytics action learning set to improve GP appointment systems using discrete event simulation

The Strategy Unit

This project will run from September 2019 to December 2020.

  • Led by The Strategy Unit, in partnership with Lion Health, Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (MLCSU) and Primary Care Networks, and supported by experts from the University of Strathclyde and NHS Wales Modelling Collaborative.
  • Building analytical capacity in discrete event simulation (DES) in the GP setting, leading to better access for patients.
  • Will involve a case study site in the West Midlands, an applied skills development programme for analysts and practice staff, and a masterclass-webinar.

GP practices are facing growing demand for consultations, over and above the average increase in patient list size. The 2018 national GP Patient Survey highlighted that patients have difficulty accessing GP services, with three in 10 patients finding it hard to get through on the phone.

Improving GP appointment systems can improve patient satisfaction, reduce stress for patients and staff, reduce missed appointments, relieve pressure in the wider NHS, and save the NHS money.

Most primary care appointment schedules are developed using ‘common sense’ approaches. However, given the complexity of modern health care, this is unlikely to yield optimal results.

A discrete event simulation (DES) model is a computer model that mimics the operation of a real, time-based system. It allows users to see bottlenecks and look at the impact of changes before they are tried, for example changing the flow of patients, increasing demand or changing staff rotas.

This project, run by The Strategy Unit, will look to build analytical capacity in general practice, enabling those responsible for the design of GP appointment systems to have greater understanding and access to more advanced modelling methods, with support from analysts.

An applied skills development programme on the use of DES will be held, for analysts and practice staff, and a masterclass/webinar will be available online to all practice staff. A large multi-GP practice in the West Midlands will be used as a case study site, demonstrating how DES can be used to re-design and improve the appointment system.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Stacey Croft, Senior Healthcare Analyst, The Strategy Unit.

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