Online atlas maps out variations in care
12 December 2011
The variation in healthcare services across England is highlighted further by an updated online 'NHS Atlas of Variation' from the Department of Health (DH).
Consisting of 71 maps, the atlas shows the amount of money each primary care trust (PCT) spends on clinical services and links this with health outcomes for patients. The idea is that the site will help commissioners to learn from one other, consider the appropriateness of a service, and investigate when clinical health outcomes are not reflecting the financial investment that has been made.
When the first NHS Atlas of Variation was published in November 2010, consisting of 34 maps, over 120,000 copies were downloaded and 10,000 hard copies requested.
The DH said that while variation occurs naturally in the NHS and is encouraged where the NHS tailors services to meet local needs, this Atlas exposes "unwarranted variation" and will help the NHS to provide consistently high quality care for patients.
Among the startling statistics highlighted are a 25-fold variation in anti-dementia drugs prescribing rates across England, patients with Type 2 diabetes being twice as likely to receive the highest standard of care in some areas of England than others, and an eight-fold variation in the range of patients receiving angioplasty treatment for a severe (STEMI) heart attack, although this may be down to long travel times to reach patients living in rural areas.
The health minister Lord Howe said: "The Atlas of Variation lets us look at how the local NHS is meeting the clinical needs of their local population. This will help commissioners to identify unjustified variations and drive up standards so patients are receiving consistently high quality care throughout the NHS.
"We are committed to improving results for patients and our new NHS Outcomes Framework will hold the NHS to account for this. Commissioners will be able to apply contractual penalties if any organisation is failing to deliver improvements for patients."