Press release

Atlas maps out variation in NHS

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The government today showed its commitment to improving health outcomes for patients by shining a light on variation in NHS healthcare services

The government today showed its commitment to improving health outcomes for patients by shining a light on variation in NHS healthcare services.

The NHS Atlas of Variation has today been published by the Department of Health to highlight the amount each Primary Care Trust (PCT) spends on clinical services and links this with the health outcomes patients see.

Consisting of 71 maps, the Atlas will help commissioners 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.

The first NHS Atlas of Variation, consisting of 34 maps and published in November 2010, was welcomed by the NHS and other stakeholders - over 120,000 copies have been downloaded and 10,000 hard copies requested.

While variation occurs naturally in the NHS and is encouraged where the NHS tailors services to meet local needs, we have expanded this year’s Atlas so we can support commissioners to expose unwarranted variation and help the NHS provide consistently high quality care for patients.

Examples of variations highlighted in the Atlas:

• A 25-fold variation in anti-dementia drugs prescribing rates across England 

• Patients with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to receive the highest standard of care in some areas of England in comparison to others

• There is an eight-fold variation in the range of patients receiving angioplasty treatment for a severe (STEMI) heart attack - this variation may be due to long travel times to reach patients living in rural areas.

Health Minister Lord Howe said:

“Our modernisation plans for the NHS will result in a more patient-centred NHS that achieves health outcomes that are amongst the best in the world and gives people a greater say about their healthcare.

“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.”

Notes to Editors
1. The NHS Atlas of Variation has been published through the Department of Health’s national QIPP programme and can be found on the NHS Right Care website.

2. Last year’s Atlas of Variation can also be found on the NHS Right Care website.

3. A STEMI heart attack stands for (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack)

4. For further information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.