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Maths in medicine wins THE award

27 November 2015

Maths saves lives wins THE award

Research placing maths at the heart of medicine wins Times Higher Education innovation award

A University-led project, which uses mathematical modelling to unravel the complex reasons behind delays on hospital wards to cut waiting times and save lives, has won a prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) award.

The ‘Maths Saves Lives’ project won the THE award for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology’ category, which acknowledges and promotes breakthroughs that could significantly enhance commercial or public sector operations.

The team picked up the award last night at an awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London (26 November).

Led by Professors Jeff Griffiths and Paul Harper from the School of Mathematics, the team closely studied queues and patient flows to unravel the complex reasons behind delays on hospital wards and in A&E units.

Hospitals have traditionally measured demand by the length of waiting lists or numbers of referrals. But this information only provides a number and does not provide health professionals with specific information about patients’ treatment needs.

The mathematical models developed by the team help to determine the needs and urgency of each patient. By capturing this complexity and variability, the mathematical models guide the patients towards the most effective healthcare provision.

By modelling simulations of real life scenarios - such as complex and unpredictable patient flows - managers can change their processes on screen before they do it, allowing them to look at different performance measures and predict what could happen if things were changed.

The embedding of mathematical modelling into healthcare has never been done before in the UK, and the data generated from these models has been used by health systems in England and Wales to cut waiting times, inform policy-making, enhance a wide range of services and ultimately save lives.

As a result of the modelling, the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff has delivered £1.6m net efficiency gains in the emergency department. Patient care and hospital resources have also been significantly improved at Rookwood Hospital - a major neurological rehabilitation centre in South Wales. Modelling at the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at St George’s Hospital in South London helped reduce the mortality of stroke patients by 60%.

In addition, as a direct result of the collaboration, more than 200 NHS Wales staff have attended training in statistical and modelling techniques, and a national training course is being developed with Exeter University.

If rolled out on a wider scale, it is expected that the successes from the existing projects can be replicated, with experts estimating that modelling could cut NHS costs by as much as 20%.