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Why maps are good for your health

  • It is true to say that SHAPE informs the debate and moves forward planning discussions very effectively. The quality of maps is excellent and the application is very user and presentation friendly. As a tool, it engages with people who are not used to looking at complicated statistics and helps them to visualise proposed changes in services by presenting them on a map. The fact that SHAPE is free to use is a significant benefit.

    Bob Sheridan, Assistant Director Capital Planning, NHS Kent and Medway

Healthcare organisations around the country are improving the planning and redesign of their services via a web-enabled evidence-based application that is built around accurate geographic information (GI) provided by Great Britain’s national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey.

The challenge

SHAPE, short for Strategic Health Asset Planning and Evaluation, encourages a multi-disciplinary approach to service planning and is being used by both commissioners and providers of healthcare services. It is now available to local authorities to help assess the public health and social care needs of their communities. Recently redeveloped and updated, SHAPE informs the development of more efficient, productive and targeted services for patients. The tool is being used to support the planning of health and social care services in West Kent, an area where an estimated 60,000 new homes will be built over the next 20 years including part of the Thames Gateway, Europe’s largest regeneration programme.

NHS Kent and Medway commissions service to more than half a million people in an area stretching from Dartford in the north, through Maidstone in the east, to Tunbridge Wells in the south. As well as ensuring that GP surgeries and clinics meet the needs of local residents, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) is working with local authorities and other health providers to prepare for a huge planned growth in population over the next two decades along the southern edge of the River Thames between Dartford and Gravesend, part of the Thames Gateway. Analysing current and future health needs of a growing population is a complex task and the use of digital maps has proved to be critical in pinpointing the best possible locations for health services in the area.

The solution

Planners at NHS Kent and Medway have turned to SHAPE to help revitalise existing GP and health clinic services as well as to recommend sites for new facilities to meet the area’s growing population. Originally developed by the Department of Health for estate professionals six years ago, SHAPE is now managed by NHS North East and provides vital information to assist a wide range of healthcare staff around the country in their decision making.

Accessing digital maps has never been easier thanks to the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), a licensing arrangement between Government and Ordnance Survey. The availability of open and shared geographical data across England and Wales through the PSMA is making a real difference to collaborative working and effective health service planning.

In West Kent, Ordnance Survey’s GI is at the heart of the planning and delivery of schemes which support the drive to bring health and social care closer to local communities. From assessing whether multi-faith religious buildings (in the Diocese of Rochester area) could also house specific health or social care services, to finding the optimum site for a new state of the art surgery and walk-in centre, accurate digital mapping is an essential part of the planning process.

SHAPE’s value lies in its ability to link national data on clinical analysis, public health, primary care and demographical information with data on the performance and location of healthcare facilities. As SHAPE is built around Ordnance Survey’s GI and supports travel time analysis, the planning team at West Kent was able to calculate the walking distance for patients to the new site of the White Horse Surgery and Walk-in Centre in Northfleet. When it opens later this year, the new service will provide a high standard of care and advice for to up to 6,000 patients drawn from an area previously served by a retiring GP and a practice requiring new premises.

Maps are a powerful way of helping people to visualise and understand where services such as hospitals and GP surgeries are located. In the West Kent area, a former brownfield site close to the Bluewater shopping centre will house five new villages and 7,500 new homes in future years. Identifying the ideal locations to build ealth and social care facilities is vital to the successful regeneration of the area. NHS Kent and Medway have been working closely with the local authorities and site developers to ensure that the needs of patients are at the heart of the process.

The benefits

  • Provides more efficient, effective and accurate planning of services.
  • Calculates the best possible locations for GP surgeries and clinics.
  • Ensures that the needs of patients are considered in housing development programmes.
  • Improves partnership working between health and local authorities.
  • Supports public consultation through easy-to-understand visual presentation of complex data on maps.

The products used

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