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Loughborough academic wins top award for research that has transformed health and social care in Leicestershire

The Operational Research Society has awarded Dr Antuela Tako, Reader in Operational Research for Loughborough University School of Business and Economics, the President's Medal 2021 for research that has helped to transform the health and social care services in Leicestershire.

Working with Professor Stewart Robinson (Loughborough University), Anastasia Gogi (Business Process Consultant, Hellenic Sea Lines SC), and Professor Zoe Radnor (Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Law), the SMITEGR8 simulation modelling research project was developed and used to improve the community-based services offered by health and social care organisations across Leicestershire and Rutland.

Elderly and vulnerable people are now better cared for in the community, enabling them to live at home – relatively independently – for longer.

To overcome existing barriers to the adoption of changes to practice by health and social care providers, stakeholders were actively encouraged to participate in the simulation modelling process to help co-design the changes required.

This has greatly increased the commitment to, and success of, organisational enhancements that have both improved services and made cost efficiencies.

Impact on Leicestershire’s Lightbulb service

A major beneficiary of their work is Lightbulb which provides patient-centred support improving wellbeing and independence at home.

This service delivers housing support solutions including level-access showers and stairlifts for the frail and elderly – helping them to stay safe in their homes and prevent falls, reducing the need for hospital beds.

Dr Tako’s research helped to identify changes in processes and workforce configuration, resulting in a streamlined and shorter user journey, meaning that alterations or services take less time to be completed.

Lightbulb – health gains with financial benefits

As well as enhancing people’s quality of life and wellbeing, the research undertaken at Loughborough has led to a number of financial efficiencies:

The redesign of Lightbulb resulted in a 50% reduction in service costs per case, saving about £360,000 (2017-19).

The reduction in falls has saved the local health and care economy £21,000 a year.

Lightbulb has helped reduce the duration of hospital stays, saving £22,000 per patient.

The improvements to its service had previously been recognised by the Association for Public Service Excellence's Best Collaborative Working Initiative 2017 and by the Local Government Chronicle Awards in 2018. It was also highly commended by the Home Improvement Agency Awards' Collaboration Award 2017.

Leicestershire County Council’s former Director of Health and Care Integration says of the research: “The SIMTEGR8 modelling was an essential part of developing the care pathway and the evaluation process for the pilot during the development phase of this project...

“[It] helped prove the concept both operationally and financially. The service has since been fully implemented and commissioned on a recurrent basis over multiple financial years.

“The project provided a credible evidence base supporting the case for ongoing investment in the service and was a huge benefit within the NHS context, where decisions on funding allocation are made on very robust business cases.”

The Operational Research Society President’s Medal

The Operational Research Society awards The President's Medal to research that demonstrates the most successful Operational Research (OR) practice, and is judged based on the level of demonstratable benefit, the intellectual and novel content of the solution, the likely longevity of the solution, and the excellence of the OR process.

Commenting on Antuela’s achievement, Professor Jan Godsell – Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University said: ‘The increasing pressure on public services, to do more with less, highlights the importance of taking an evidence-based approach. Modelling approaches such as SIMTEGR8 demonstrate the benefits that can be achieved when the academic expertise is harnessed to address societal issues.  It is fantastic to see that the real-life impact of Antuela’s work being recognised by the OR society, through their most prestigious award’. 

Dr Antuela Tako is part of Loughborough University’s Management Science and Operations academic group and leader of the Simulation Practice Research Interest Group.

Find out more about the SMITEGR8 simulation modelling research project.

ENDS

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