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Innovative game on hospital flow wins national attention

20 November

An interactive table-top game which teaches hospital staff the difficulties of managing patient flow in the face of unpredictable hospital admission demands could be rolled out nationally.

Improvement managers Dan Richter and Ian Neville, from the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals (RBCH), presented their innovative Game Of Flow training tool at the national NHS Providers’ Showcase Conference in October.

Since then 13 organisations, including The British Red Cross, acute trusts, mental health trusts, and Health Education England have also shown an interest in adopting the non-hierarchical teaching tool.

Game of Flow works by setting teams of 3-4 people the challenge of managing patients’ journeys through an acute hospital while facing a series of realistic scenarios, such as staff shortages, equipment issues, or external major incidents.

Teams have to make decisions that will alleviate the pressures, such as whether to deploy staff around the hospital or prioritise patient transfers; employ additional agency or locum staff, or even perhaps whether to divert ambulances to another team’s hospital.

Dan explained how Game of Flow puts great emphasis on inclusion, as it demonstrates how diverse staff groups - from doctors to physiotherapists and porters - all play an important role in influencing the patients’ journey through the hospital.

He added: “Leadership skills at all levels are inherent in playing the game successfully.

“Games such as the Game of Flow simulate complex real-world problems like hospital flow and allow experimentation without any blame or consequences attached to decisions, so learning can be conducted in a safe environment.

“The aim is to give staff a greater understanding of the problems faced by an acute trust and provide them with an opportunity to learn how seemingly small improvements can make a huge difference to patient care and outcomes.”

Ian said the game taught how a hospital’s true capacity is about its ability to process patient flow quickly and efficiently rather than simply the number of beds it has.

He said: “The game demonstrates how the effective prevention of unnecessary patient presentation and avoidable admissions, and clinically appropriate discharges sooner in the patients’ journey, can significantly reduce pressure on the system.”

Game of Flow has been played by about 200 staff at RBCH so far since its launch in September 2018 and is currently being used to help with staff training as part of its Leadership for Improvement month in November.

The month aims to inspire and enable anyone in the Trust to be a leader and includes masterclasses on leadership and a competition on staff-led improvements.

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