Flow Management

Turning rapids into rivers…


Improving flow can make a huge difference to the experience of users, the stress of staff and the overall quality of your service. Be freed up to focus on quality and not waiting time targets! Waiting lists can be a thing of the past if you manage flow well. This Habit is one within your control and so is part of our ELF that delivers quick wins!

Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of what happens at each step the family goes through has the greatest impact on flow. This means matching demand and capacity to eliminate bottlenecks, reducing unnecessary steps, reducing queues and continually reviewing your systems.

Variability is a major source of flow disturbance. Natural variation in the range of problems families have and staff skills and motivation can be managed, but not eliminated, whereas artificial variation (e.g. staff all going on holiday at the same time, working hours, staff doing jobs they need not do) should be kept to a minimum and you should aim to eliminate these completely. Research shows that artificial variation has more impact on our flow than natural variation. For more about variation see the Demand and Capacity section in Part 1 of this book.


Implementing this Habit will also help you with the following High Impact Changes for Mental Health as well as with others of the 7 HELPFUL Habits:

High Impact Change 8

Improve service user flow through an integrated care pathway approach

High Impact Change 8

Optimise service user and carer flow through the service bottlenecks using ‘process templates’

As well as with…

  • Handle Demand
  • Extend Capacity
  • Process map and Redesign

This section is suitable for both inpatient and outpatient services.