The OR Society conference experience A new staff member’s first impressions

If I had been asked at the start of 2022 what OR is, I would have probably replied “operating room” as most of my career has been spent in the NHS. It was an interesting parallel for me that the very first plenary speaker was Dame Julie Moore, a past NHS Chief Executive. It was only since researching for my job interview with The OR Society that I realised that for ten years I had been using OR in my day-to-day working life as a waiting list director. 

Managing waiting lists and patient flow 15 years ago was a very frustrating landscape. Within one NHS Trust there could be several different processes, healthcare IT systems (none of which would “speak” to each other) and the consensus between most clinical and administrative staff that the system had ‘just always been that way’ and for the most part worked. 

I quickly realised that with ever-tightening targets and decreasing budgets that, for services to survive, we had to look for a solution to moving as many patients through the system as efficiently and most importantly safely as possible. 

I started to introduce phrases and workstreams such as clinic utilisation, capacity planning, patient journey and then later workshops looking at LEAN methods. Unfortunately, clinicians who were keen to get involved were in the minority, and staff engagement could be challenging. 

At OR64 (my first OR conference) I had the opportunity to attend several presentations on the healthcare streams. It has been fantastic to see not only strides forward with the use of OR, but also the input and engagement that clinicians and managers are making to these projects. 

Amalia Gjerloev presented “Informing cancer services in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic using discrete event simulation” and, while maths and programming are not my specialities, the principles of mapping patients through a pathway to manage capacity and ensure they comply with the wait times is not only very interesting but actually solves real-world problems that are experienced in NHS hospitals all over the UK. Amalia is working with cancer departments with real patient numbers, journeys and outcomes, grounding her work in the real world.


Fay Moore, Education Manager, The OR Society

Similarly, Professor Christos Vasilakis’ presentation on “Exploring the role of flexible use of bed capacity in a stroke ward” is an OR solution to a problem that 15 years ago I would have to manage on a daily basis with little more than a spreadsheet formula and common sense.

I can see clearly that OR can enable the NHS to plan and futureproof services, increases patient care and staff engagement, reduce staff turn around and add to service stability.

Although I moved on from an NHS career some years ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to these positive strides forward in an organisation that has been such a big part of my life. The NHS is facing tough times ahead but using OR skills and knowledge will I’m sure make a change for good. I’m looking forward to OR65 to find out more about these exciting projects.