Better workforce plans save lives at South Central Ambulance Service

Emergency responders mobilize Anaplan to forecast demand for services and deploy their life-saving workforce

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Disaster can strike at any time, so ambulance teams and emergency services must always be ready to respond fast. South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) in England deployed Anaplan solutions to forecast demand for its services and create workforce plans to ensure that the right resources are immediately available. This boosted efficiency increased accuracy and agility and ultimately improved response to unexpected events.

With Anaplan, having a better forecast helps us mitigate risk, particularly around spikes in demand.

David Webb, Head of Forecasting

Every second counts when responding to emergency calls, and even the shortest delay could tip the balance in a life-or-death situation. Responsible for delivering ambulance and emergency services in six counties in southern England, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is expert in mobilizing its crews and equipment to help people in need.

Delivering an effective emergency response demands more than racing to the scene. Trained people must be on hand to answer emergency calls when they arrive. Then, the right people and resources must be in the right place at the right time to ensure the best possible outcomes. To achieve the optimum balance between resource capacity and demand, SCAS must predict the number of daily emergency calls it will receive, and use this data to allocate human resources with a detailed workforce plan.

Increasingly, the work requires a strategic mindset. “Five years ago, we were the first ambulance service in the UK to form a planning directorate, recognizing the importance of looking forward in delivering sustainable performance,” says Steve West, Director of Planning and Performance at SCAS. “And the last five years we’ve been developing our model around how we plan our resources, our people, and our finance.”

The scale is huge and the need is continuous. “We employ three and a half thousand staff across 29 sites,” West notes. “We’re planning those three and a half thousand staff every week, 24/7. In the emergency environment, we are required to be with a patient in a time-critical incident, such as a cardiac arrest, within seven minutes—and in that environment, minutes saves lives.”

Although SCAS’s existing planning cycle kept services running smoothly, its manual, spreadsheet-based processes created additional costs and complexity. To ensure value for taxpayers, SCAS sought to replace manual planning with automated processes.

Next-level demand planning

SCAS selected Anaplan solutions to enable this strategic planning transformation and improve integration and automation across the organization. “One of the best things about Anaplan is that it’s interconnected,” says Mary Trustworth, Business Information Analyst at SCAS. “Once you’ve set up a hub, the information can move through into different models quite seamlessly.”

Anaplan’s scalable, cloud-native platform was key to handling SCAS’ huge data volume while keeping operational IT costs to a minimum and supporting multi-location working. The solution processes billions of data points monthly and displays that granular data in dashboards that can be viewed on any device, including tablets. “It’s actually really helpful having a cloud-based solution because that means that, no matter where we are, we’re able to log on and actually see what our resourcing looks like,” Trustworth says.

The solution SCAS built also leverages PlanIQ, the Anaplan intelligence framework that delivers advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities for predictive forecasting and continuous, agile scenario modeling. The time-series forecasting capabilities in PlanIQ enable SCAS to create new predictive models that boost forecast accuracy even more. “Plan IQ brings us a number of advantages within the Anaplan platform,” says David Webb, Head of Forecasting at SCAS. “Most notably, its seamless integration with the platform lets us leverage different levels of information and data, improving our overall data quality and also helping us hone the forecasting.”

With Anaplan, SCAS can analyze its workforce plans in 15-minute increments, enabling it to adapt quickly to sudden surges in demand, meet response-time targets, and deliver more-effective care. “With Anaplan, having a better forecast helps us mitigate risk, particularly around spikes in demand,” Webb says. “And it helps us to ensure that we’ve got the right resource match for the best response and outcome for patients.”

He adds: “I would recommend Anaplan as a platform because it’s given us the ability to bring lots of data points and information together. It used to take us many weeks and months sometimes to leverage the information that we’ve almost got at our fingertips within Anaplan.”

Finally, it is worth noting the critical role Anaplan played in enabling SCAS to meet the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m incredibly proud of how South Central Ambulance Service responded to the pandemic,” West says. “I think my team and Anaplan has been a core part of our ability to do that as well as we have.”