Photo by Tara Winstead

NIHR ARC South West Peninsula (PenARC)’s innovative Health Services Modelling Associates (HSMA) programme has received £330k in funding support from the NHS Digital Academy, part of NHS England. The South West-led programme offers nationwide training and support for health, care and policing professionals to develop modelling and data science skills.

This funding is a boost for the popular HSMA programme which was developed and launched by PenARC’s Operational Research and Data Science team (PenCHORD) based at the University of Exeter, with support from Health Innovation South West. Following huge demand, the funding means that the HSMA programme will continue to grow nationally and support more organisations to develop their modelling and data science capabilities.

HSMA students are helped to tackle a key problem facing their organisation. They receive training and supervision to develop advanced modelling, simulation and analysis skills and apply them to a real-life project. Using modelling to simulate real-life situations can help decision-makers to see how services could be improved.  

The programme has led to multimillion-pound investments in mental health and emergency departments and played a pivotal role in helping organisations manage resources, staffing and services, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also led to the establishment of new in-house Operational Research teams in NHS organisations.

Dr Daniel Chalk, PenARC’s HSMA Lead and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter said: “The HSMA Programme helps organisations to engage with the power and potential of simulation modelling and Artificial Intelligence techniques in a meaningful way. Since the national rollout of the scheme, organisations have been able to collaborate to build their in-house capacity to tackle common challenges and improve the services delivered to patients in significant ways.”

The NHS Digital Academy’s primary aim is to work collaboratively to train and educate the health workforce in digital skills with the end goal of supporting as many teams as possible to deliver more value more quickly.

James Freed, Deputy Director at the NHS Digital Academy said: “I am thrilled to support the HSMA programme to develop data analysts in modelling techniques and approaches. We know that we need to build an NHS that is both data-driven and user-led and this course is a significant part of creating that new world.”

Dr Daniel Chalk added: “We are absolutely delighted to be partnering with the NHS Digital Academy to continue delivering the HSMA programme to health, social care and policing organisations across the country. The national expansion of the programme has proven there is not only a huge appetite nationally for the training we deliver, but also large numbers of hugely skilled staff who have the potential to develop their skill sets to help transform the analytical and digital capabilities of their organisations. 

“The support of the NHS Digital Academy ensures that we can continue to expand the reach of the programme, developing crucial data science and computer modelling skills in organisations across the country, and ensuring that we can support even more people to use these new skills to make a real and positive difference to people’s lives and the care they receive.”

The sixth iteration of the HSMA programme begins in April 2024 with an HSMA Open Day and registration opening on 13 December 2023.  

Find out more and register for the HSMA Open Day (13 Dec 2023)

Learn more about the HSMA programme