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Research and Projects

Modelling demand and capacity for NHS Trusts in the South West

Theme: ARC - Methods for Research & Improvement
Status: Live

Project Summary

A collaboration between PenARC, University of Exeter Researchers and the NHS has developed a crucial new tool to ensure health trusts maintain sufficient levels of life-saving equipment and bed spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team, led by Professor Gavin Shaddick, has developed a new data modelling tool to help forecast demand on crucial NHS resources in the region. The forecasts have been used to help predict the demand for in-patient beds, intensive care, PPE, ventilators, oxygen and testing kits. 

Project Activity

The forecasting model integrates epidemiological modelling with statistical forecasting using both national and local data. The analysis works by comparing local patterns of the spread of COVID-19 with other areas nationally and abroad. The researchers are able to use daily ‘live’ data to adjust their forecasts as the spread of the disease evolves in local populations. The latest aspect of this project has been to consider the impact of a wide range of scenarios which may occur as lockdown is relaxed with the ability to vary the anticipated R number and include effects of population increases in the South West over the summer period.

Project Outputs

The forecasting model developed by the University team has been made available online to a group of senior clinicians including microbiologists, disease infection and prevention specialists and executives as well as public health and commissioning experts.

The initial model, developed in partnership with Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust has evolved substantially following suggestions from NHS colleagues and is now available as an online app. The tool has been rolled out to the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, with plans to include NHS Trusts in Somerset.

Trusts who are interested in making use of the tool should contact in the first instance.

You can watch Professor Gavin Shaddick presenting the model in the video below:

NHS Impact

Nic Harrison, Principal Analyst and NHS Lead for Northern and Eastern Devon collaborative COVID analysis and modelling said: “This is work that the NHS is having to deliver at pace, so we are delighted that the University is helping to support us with this at such a challenging time so that key decisions are based on the strongest possible evidence-base.”

Angela Hibbard, Director of Finance and Performance at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and also representing the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust has been leading the project for the local NHS. She described the tool as “being hugely important in informing the  decision-making within both Trusts during the COVID-19  crisis. It has helped us make well-informed and evidence-based decisions across a range of key issues such as PPE and ventilators being available to frontline staff when they need them. More importantly, it is helping us model scenarios as we start to come out of lockdown and what this may mean to our hospital capacity requirements going forward.”

Read a news story here.

Others Involved

Professor Gavin Shaddick, Professor of Data Science and Statistics, University of Exeter, University of Exeter PhD researcher: Rob Challen, Turing Research Fellows: James Salter and Fiona Spooner, Institute of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Research Fellow Oliver Stoner, and UKRI CDT in Environmental Intelligence postgraduate students Chris Kerry, Josh Redmond and Arthur Vandervoort.


Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT), the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust (RD&E) and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT)