SW AHSN initiative inspires new police research programme

An enormously successful initiative co-run by the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) and the Applied Research Collaboration South West Peninsula (PenARC) has influenced a ground-breaking new scheme to use operational research to improve the police service. 
The 2018 round of the Health Services Modelling Associates Programme (HSMA), jointly run by the SW AHSN and PenARC’s operational research team, PenCHORD, enabled NHS staff to spend time undertaking operational research or data science to support their organisation. Now PenCHORD are launching the first ever Police Service Modelling Associates Programme (PSMA).
The 9-month mentoring scheme, which launches this month, will see associates, recruited from Devon & Cornwall Police staff, the College of Policing and other regional forces, receive mentoring and training to support them to undertake projects that will have real impact and embed evidence-based decision making and operational research skills within the service.
The PSMA programme follows the same structure as HSMA, whereby associates are released from their usual role for a day a week to undertake an operational research or data science project that is impactful for their organisation, and which supports the embedding of operational research skills within it.
PSMA associates will receive training in operational research and the modelling process along with an introduction to data science and programming using R and Python, specialist mathematical modelling software, and come together once a month for a hackathon session, along with their mentors, to discuss progress, share ideas and have time to work on their projects.
Dr Daniel Chalk, PenCHORD Senior Research Fellow, said: “The PSMA programme represents a fantastic opportunity to apply the hugely successful HSMA model into the work of the police, and help to improve the analytical capabilities of policing staff to transform the way in which police services can be delivered.  The significant links between the work of the police and the wider health system, particularly in areas such as mental health, cannot be understated, and we believe that this programme could lead to real improvements for communities as a whole.”
PenCHORD have run the HSMA programme for two years with more than 30 associates. The programme has led to significant impact for NHS organisations and patients across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, including over £8 million of investment in new mental health facilitiesthe reconfiguration of stroke services to improve access to specialist care, and the creation of brand new operational research roles in NHS organisations across Devon and Cornwall.
The PSMA programme has been made possible by the successful securing of funding from the Policing Lab Fund, made up of representatives from the University of Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and College of Policing.

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