The ever increasing pressures to ensure the most efficient and effective use of limited health service resources will, over time, encourage policy makers to turn to system modelling solutions. Such techniques have been available for decades, but despite ample research which demonstrates potential, their application in health services to date is limited. This article surveys the breadth of approaches available to support delivery and design across many areas and levels of healthcare planning. A case study in emergency stroke care is presented as an exemplar of an impactful application of health system modelling. This is followed by a discussion of the key issues surrounding the application of these methods in health, what barriers need to be overcome to ensure more effective implementation, as well as likely developments in the future.