Demand and capacity

The National Demand and Capacity Programme, jointly sponsored by NHS England and NHS Improvement, makes sure that demand and capacity principles, methodological approaches and data sets are understood and recognised by commissioners and providers.

Why is demand and capacity planning important?

The mismatch between, and variation in, capacity and demand is one of the main reasons why waiting lists or backlogs develop and waiting lists and waiting times increase. The undertaking and understanding of the outputs of robust demand and capacity modelling are a fundamental requirement for the planning and delivery of healthcare services in a modern health and social care system. The benefits of such an approach are no longer questioned yet, despite the body of evidence available, such an approach is not universally understood, adopted, nor acted upon.  A shared understanding between providers and commissioners on demand, capacity, bottlenecks and constraints can help to:

  • Understand the reasons why waiting lists grow;
  • Model the requisite level of supply required to keep pace with demand;
  • Understand the gap between the required level of supply and the current capacity of a service;
  • Calculate the maximum waiting list sizes that are consistent with the clinical pathway milestones;
  • Model the impact of clearing excess waiting list sizes down to ideal maximum levels;
  • Identify any potential inefficiencies;
  • Support better decision making around service changes; and
  • Reduce waiting times for patients.

It is designed to develop and deliver a national training programme that embeds this knowledge and expertise within local health economies to support future planning.

The objectives of the programme are:

  • To work with system leaders to make sure there is universal engagement and buy in to understand the necessity for this programme and the potential benefits to be realised for local health economies;
  • To develop and deliver a national training programme to embed knowledge and expertise within local health economies;
  • To make sure the principles, methodological approaches and datasets are understood and recognised by both commissioner and provider organisations, in order to produced shared health economy plans;
  • To develop a suite of national tools and models which are produced to an approved and accepted methodology to make sure there is a consistency of approach; and
  • To support and inform the production of robust activity plans at local organisational level and place-based unit level as required for future planning rounds.

The programme will be overseen by a joint steering group of NHS England and NHS Improvement. Progress will be reported directly to the Executive Teams of both organisations.


We will be holding a series of one-day training sessions during 2016.

Title: One day regional training
Date: 30 November 2016, 09:30am – 16:30pm
Location: Headingley Experience, Headingley Carnegie Stadium, St Michaels Lane, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3BR.
Register here for this event

Title: One day regional training
Date: 06 December 2016, 09:30am – 16:30pm
Location: Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SN.
Register here for this event

Description: During January and February 2016 a series of two-day training events were held across the country aimed at helping to improve the understanding of the basics of demand and capacity planning, and to provide access to a number of models which will inform the production of activity plans for the 2016/17 planning round.  These training events have now been distilled into a one day training event. The events do have an acute provider focus but they are equally useful to commissioner colleagues.

Demand and capacity models

NHS IMAS has produced national tools and models to an approved and accepted methodology. This makes sure of a consistency of approach across all health economies.

These models are free to services and they have been developed by people who have worked in the NHS. While the NHS does not have a prescriptive approach as to which models should be used, those wishing to use the models can access them and their user guides (where available) on the Elective Care Intensive Support Team pages on the NHS IMAS website.

On this website, the following Demand & Capacity Modelling Tools and Guidance are available:

  • Outpatient capacity & demand model
  • Inpatient/day case capacity & demand model
  • Two week wait cancer capacity & demand model
  • Advanced flow capacity & demand model
  • Endoscopy capacity & demand model
  • Diagnostic imaging capacity & demand model


Contact us

If you have any queries about the demand and capacity programme, please contact us at