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Postgraduate Health Operational Research and Management Science

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  • Objectives
    The NHS is again undergoing significant organisational reform. In designing and managing change in such a complex organisation, the quality of strategic and operational analysis is critical. The objectives of this unique part-time programme are to enable: • An understanding of the terminology and principles of analytical thinking and the literature which records these • A familiarity with a range of analytical methods and traditions • An appreciation of the scope for, and value of, applying these methods in health planning and management practice • An ability to undertake analytical studies – or effectively specify and commission them Skills which the course aims to develop will be useful in a wide variety of settings including commissioning agencies, primary care and NHS Trusts, regulatory organisations, and in other local agencies contributing to effective health services.
  • Entry requirements
    The Diploma Programme seeks to develop the analytical capacity of healthcare managers and practitioners in the subject area of health operational research (and management). Entry requirements reflect the University’s and the Centre’s existing policy on entry to postgraduate Diploma programmes. Normally, candidates will have a good honours degree or equivalent professional qualification. Exceptionally, for applicants who do not meet these entry requirements, but who have a good record of professional achievement, admittance will be subject to an interview and supporting documentation. As important as a formal qualification is the motivation for the subject content and the potential to make positive use of that content in practice. The programme is based on the interaction of theory and practice and it is highly desirable, therefore, that candidates have relevant work experience within their organisation. Candidates who achieve at the Masters Level throughout the Diploma programme will then be eligible to register for the MBA (Health Operational Research and Management) and to take forward credits for their Diploma studies into their MBA studies.
  • Academic Title
    Postgraduate Diploma initially with potential to transfer to MBA Health Operational Research and Management Science
  • Course description
    Part-Time study


    Based at Keele University in Staffordshire, the Centre is specifically concerned with the planning and management of health services. Created in 1986, it is acknowledged as an important research and development centre and a major provider of innovative postgraduate teaching.

    The research and development activities of the Centre operate under three broad categories: Health Policy, Health Services Management and Health Services Research. The teaching programmes focus on strengthening the managerial capacity and sensitivity to policy of health service personnel, both in the UK and internationally.

    In all areas of work, the Centre has established a proven track record of quality and innovation. Its achievements have earned the Centre a well-deserved reputation for its significant contribution to understanding contemporary issues and for the quality of its publications.

    Building on its success, the Centre is continually developing further areas of excellence in
    order to advance the relevance and effectiveness of its activities.

    Course Structure and Content

    The programme is delivered in two parts:

    • A taught element, consisting of three one-week courses, each assessed by written assignment ( x20 credits)
    • An applied health operational research project (60 credits)

    The taught element of the programme comprises an introductory ‘signature’ weekend and three 5-day courses over the course of the year.

    Participants will join MBA or Diploma classes for the three taught courses. Two courses are compulsory; the third is elective; chosen from a list of courses which directly contribute to health operational research training.

    The courses to be taken are set out below.

    Course 1 (Compulsory) – Management Science

    Course 2 (Elective) – One course, selected from:

    • Customer Relations and Marketing
    • Accounting and Financial Management
    • Health Economics

    Course 3 (Compulsory) – Operations Management

    Management Science focuses on analytical and data management methods.

    Indicative themes for the course are:

    • Principles of Health and Health Service Information Management
    • Operational Research Modelling Methods and Decision Support Systems
    • Project Planning and Project Management
    • Performance Measurement and Performance Management
    • Problem Structuring and Group Decision Support
    • Epidemiology and its Applications
    • Measurement, Analysis and Management of Risk

    Operations Management is concerned with the effective and efficient management of resources. Theories and techniques will be introduced and considered within the context of the key health service themes, for example:

    • Needs assessment and service planning (eg assessing the impacts of the ageing of the population)
    • Capacity management; (eg supply of services to meet waiting list targets)
    • ‘Value for money’ (eg the evaluation of changes in services)
    • Investment/dis-investment decisions (eg assessing how new medical technologies might be introduced whilst keeping within resource constraints)
    • Information usage in planning, monitoring and evaluation of services; and the development of information and decision-support systems (eg addressing the problem of winter ‘pressures’ on emergency services)
    • Quality assurance (eg issues surrounding the establishment of clinical governance)
    • Organisational change (eg developing effective multi-agency working)

    The use of case studies will be a key feature of the course.

    Course Modules

    • Health Services, Customer Relations and Management – the elements of this course include: the nature of and processes for analysis of the socio-economic and political factors in the healthcare environment; methods for analysis of consumer behaviour and
    public opinion in relation to health and health services, and their congruence with professional judgement and management strategy; quality assurance and clinical governance frameworks and techniques; the reconciliation of customer relations and marketing with incentives for managers; the law and consumerism.

    • Accounting and Financial Management – the objective of this course is to provide candidates with an appreciation of the nature and analysis of budgets, costs, and activities, and an understanding of resource management and financial information in the health
    sector. The module will also embrace an assessment of financial performance and of financial decision-making. Following an examination of standard accounting and financial techniques, health service specific topics such as costing and pricing; capital charging;
    option appraisal, corporate financing, cost centres, market trading, budgetary control and incentives will be introduced.

    • Health Economics and Management – the syllabus for this course includes: uses of economic analysis, such as cost-benefit and cost-effective analysis; the integration of economic methods and concepts into strategic processes of planning, programming, and
    budgeting; economic evaluation and issues of clinical behaviour and control; incentives and barriers to efficient behaviour.

    The aim of this module will be to familiarise candidates with the key analytical concepts and methodologies of health economics, in order to increase their capabilities in applying these to the planning and management of health services.

    On successful completion of the three taught modules, candidates will be eligible to be awarded a Certificate in Health Operational Research and Management Science.

    It is normally expected that candidates will then proceed to the second year to complete the Diploma. Successful completion of the dissertation and taught element of the programme leads to the award of the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Operational Research.


    The Diploma is subject to continuous assessment. For each of the three courses, candidates are required to submit an assignment of 3,000-4,000 words. The assignments tend to be presented in a role-play format in which participants are asked to apply critically concepts, methods and techniques to a ‘real-life’ situation and to assess the value of so doing. The assignments are aimed to assess how well candidates are able to integrate theory, method and practice.

    Assignments are marked by the Course Director or specialist teacher, and the marking criteria are made known to the participants. A representative sample from each set of course assignments is forwarded to the External Examiner for verification of the level of marking.

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