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Geographic information improves health service planning in Bromley

  • Ordnance Survey geographic information has been really important to raising awareness of plans to change health services in Bromley. Maps help people to visualise and understand what is often complex data.

    Sarah Seager, Senior Public Health Intelligence Analyst, NHS Bromley

Ordnance Survey geographic information is playing a major role in raising awareness of the health needs of people in the London Borough of Bromley and informing recommendations to improve health services in the borough.

The challenge

The desire to improve local services and make the best use of NHS® resources, including a local hospital building, led to a project being established that would look at the future of health services in the Orpington area of the borough.

A project team comprising of decision-makers from health and social care organisations and representatives from patient groups was set up to review the provision of existing services and assess the health needs of the local population.

Uncertainty about the future of health services, especially when it involves a hospital, always generates strong opinions and plans to revitalise health services in the Orpington area of Bromley have been no exception.

Before making any decisions, the project group responsible for coming up with recommendations to improve health provision in the area had to look carefully at the health needs of the people of Bromley. This project is ongoing.

The group is considering a wide range of options for the future, which are being reviewed, amended and added to on an ongoing basis as more feedback is received. Viewing the information on maps rather than in vast spreadsheets is easier to understand and supports more accurate health service planning.

The solution

To help assess the health needs of the local population, the group turned to the public health intelligence team at NHS Bromley, which uses Ordnance Survey digital maps to help visualise the complex data required to inform service decision-making.

As part of the needs assessment, hospital admissions data was used as the focus for analysis and each medical speciality was mapped. Using information on patient postcodes and borough boundaries, analysts were able to find out exactly who was using the hospital, where they lived and what conditions they were being treated for.

Taking this a step further, the team divided the borough into three zones and overlaid the maps of each zone with demographic information on age, ethnicity and indicators to determine levels of deprivation.

By putting all the data together, it was possible to see at a glance which zone had the highest health needs, whether there was an older population or a projected growth in population, and where the highest emergency admission rates were coming from, as well as many other trends.

As a result, the needs assessment was able to include recommendations for the project group about the level of service required in each area of the borough. For example, it was clear from the assessment that services supporting chronic heart disease, diabetes and cancer are needed throughout Bromley, while services targeting the reduction of teenage pregnancy should be concentrated in only one of the mapping zones where the need is greater.

Ordnance Survey geographic information has been essential to the process and analysts believe they would not have been able to provide such accurate recommendations on the future provision of services without the use of maps.

The team in Bromley has taken full advantage of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), a licensing arrangement between the Government and Ordnance Survey that allows all public-sector organisations across England and Wales to use centrally-funded geographic data provided by Ordnance Survey to help plan and deliver their services. It replaces all previous collective mapping agreements and has the potential to achieve major savings throughout the public sector as a result of more accurate planning of services and a better use of resources.

The benefits of the PSMA are significant for the health and social care sector. Not only does the agreement improve joint working, but the innovative use of maps can help achieve public health targets, streamline patient transport services and support effective estate and asset management. A key benefit, as shown in Bromley, is that the PSMA enables a wide range of data to be visualised on maps that everyone can understand.

The benefits

  • More efficient, effective and accurate planning of health services in Bromley.
  • Visualisation of complex information on maps, which everyone can understand.
  • Accurately describes where patients live and the services they need.
  • Enables sharing of information between the primary care trust (PCT) and local authority encouraging more joint working.
  • Provides great value for money as the information is available through the PSMA, which is centrally funded.

The products used

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