The Bathtub Service Model

Posted: 3rd May 2011

We'd like to share with you a model we use for reviewing or designing a system. You might like to use it to describe your services and interventions. The illustration below shows a 'bathtub' which represents your service. Each component of the system is described below:


1. The taps are the input of service users. They include referrals from other services and self-referrals. If you want to reach more service users, how can you turn up the taps? If you are at capacity, how can you turn off the taps (or prioritise) to stop the system overflowing?

2. In order to answer the questions above you need to know what your capacity is and these are the sensors that tell you how full your service is, a bit like the fuel gauge in your car. What metrics can you use to determine how full you are operating and what additional capacity you have (if any)? Can you set these up to give you information in real-time?

3. Where do your service users go to afterwards? What are the onward referrals? Do service users take part in a block programme, such as a 12-week programme, where they all finish at the same time? Or do they steadily trickle onwards as and when they no longer need the service offered.

4. Are there any cracks? Cracks in your system cause leakage or service user attrition. Are service users staying with the service as long as they should or are they leaving for unknown reasons? Can you identify and patch up any cracks in your service?

5. These are the soap sensors. How soapy is the water? At the end of the day, the service is there for a purpose. In the case of the bathtub it's to get clean. Soap therefore represents 'effectiveness'. How can you increase the effectiveness of your service? Are there any elements of what you do that you know work better than others?

6. There are the temperature sensors. How warm is the water? A cold bath of soapy water can still get you clean but it might not feel very nice! The temperature gauge therefore refers to the service user experience. How can you make the water warmer? How can you make your service experience better?

At Hampson Solutions we look at all of these areas but we specialise in number 6, making services more appealing, more positive, more user-friendly and more aligned to our human nature.

Have a go at describing your service using our bathtub model and see if you uncover anything you feel will make it more effective, maximise its capacity, help you better control the inward and onward referrals and make it a better experience for service users.

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