Scheduling Community Mental Health Assessment in Devon
PenCLAHRC’s Operational Research team PenCHORD, teamed up with the Devon Partnership Trust to assist them with implementing a new system that would dramatically reduce waiting times for mental health assessments. The Trust’s mental health services are delivered at several specialist assessment centres across Devon. Recognising the opportunity to improve this service, the Trust wanted to introduce a centralised ‘Choose and Book’ system – allowing patients to select the location they are referred to for an outpatient appointment.
Making changes that are based on evidence can be difficult in the real world, where subtle differences between systems mean, what works in one situation may not succeed in another. Before launching the new system, the Trust approached PenCHORD to use the latest techniques in computer modelling to help them validate and improve the proposed new system before it was officially rolled out.
What Happened Next?
PenCHORD created a detailed simulation of the referral and assessment pathway, allowing the Trust to evaluate the ‘Choose and Book’ system before it was implemented.
The model helped the team to assess the likely demand at each centre, predict the number of appointment slots needed, and determine the best location for each site. This analysis also proved that a type of queue-sharing model – where patients can choose to attend one from several of their closest centres, would reduce waiting times significantly.
After testing the processes in the virtual world, the Trust was able to confidently implement the new system to great effect. Thanks to the PenCHORD team being able to better match capacity to local demand, and advise on use of queue-sharing, the average wait time for an appointment in the pilot area fell from 22 days to 14.