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Launch of new website to mark one year of Health Service Modelling Associates Programme

Posted on July 4th 2017

HSMA website

“With the HSMA programme, we have developed an exciting new way for the NHS to engage with the power and potential of simulation modelling in a meaningful way.  It means that NHS organisations across the region can build their in-house capacity to build models that inform decisions whilst seeing real impact for the organisation. 

Dan Chalk, Research Fellow in the PenCHORD team and lead for the HSMA programme

To mark the end of the first year of our Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMA) programme, we’ve launched a new website to showcase the impacts that this innovative scheme has had on NHS Trusts across the South West. You can visit the website at:

The HSMA programme

The HSMA programme, run by PenCHORD, allows NHS staff to spend one day a week building advanced simulation models to tackle a priority problem facing their organisation. 

Associates are supported by a mentor from the PenCHORD team, who provides advice, guidance and training and a workplace supervisor in the NHS who facilitates implementation of the project. The aim is to build capacity in NHS trusts, giving them the skills to embed evidence-based practice in all areas of their operational activities.

Following the success of this year’s programme, PenCHORD is now working with partner organisations to support them to embed these operational research practices, with another round of modelling secondments planned for later this year.

The HSMA programme now has a new website to track its impacts and output as well as to showcase its continued success:

The past year

In the first year of the programme, PenCHORD has mentored six HSMAs, helping them develop advanced modelling, simulation and analysis skills, and applying these to real-life projects within their organisations. These have ranged from reducing bottlenecks in mental health care systems to increasing survival rates for patients who suffer cardiac arrest.

All six of the projects undertaken by the HSMAs have produced important findings for their organisations and have informed decision making through supporting business cases, change programmes and informing local Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).

The pilot programme culminated in a showcase event held at the University of Exeter Medical School on 30th March 2017. Over 50 people attended from NHS organisations across the region, including academics from across the UK, the South West Academic Health Science Network and senior representatives from the Trusts. Participants presented their project findings and shared how both they and their organisations have benefited from the scheme. Full details of the event can be found on the news page.

Impact of the HSMA programme

The HSMA programme has delivered significant impacts, boosting capacity and fostering meaningful collaborations.

Both the individuals and Trusts involved in the HSMA training are seeing significant operational benefits across all projects. But a key goal of the programme is also to create changes that can have a wider influence on teams within the NHS in effective, sustainable and long-lasting ways. 

As well as helping to inform decisions, the HSMA programme has brought a host of additional benefits to the NHS in the South West. Karl Vile of Devon Partnership NHS Trust is one of several HSMAs who have become advocates for operational research techniques and is already working on other modelling projects, including cross-Trust collaborations with fellow HSMAs. Read more about Karl’s work and achievements with the HSMA programme.

George Thomson, Medical Director at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, has predicted that the programme could help the work of the region’s STPs to making the NHS more sustainable in the South West:

“The STP faces the eye-watering task of saving half a billion pounds by 2020, and to do that properly requires a lot of modelling. What the HSMA programme is doing is developing that expertise and capacity.”

What happens next?

Alongside the pilot of the HSMA programme, a formal evaluation has been taking place to assess how well the programme has met its objectives, and to better understand the things that work well, and where improvements could be made.  The results of this evaluation are being delivered to the PenCHORD team in Summer 2017. 

The team will be using the results from this evaluation to inform the design of the second iteration of the programme, which they are hoping to launch towards the end of 2017, and they’ll be working hard with key stakeholders across the South West to ensure that the strong legacy that has come from launching this programme continues.

Dr Daniel Chalk, Research Fellow in the PenCHORD team and lead for the HSMA programme, sums up their vision for the future:

"Our aim is to continue building on this programme, recruiting more HSMAs, involving more organisations, and continuing to increase the visibility of operational research within the NHS, until such methods become a standard and integral part of decision making in the health service.  We encourage people to check out the website to find out more about the fantastic successes of the programme, and to keep up to date with our future developments.”

To find out more about the HSMA programme and read about the achievements of the Associates, visit our HSMA website