dental care is accessible became a priority during the COVID-19 crisis. Without
the pandemic situation, we operate a regular GIS
contract with NHS England South East and South West to provide GIS mapping services
to each region around primary care commissioning and contracting for pharmacy,
dental, optometry and public health. When
COVID-19 struck, we received requests independently from both regions for
support in looking at where they should site the urgent dental care hubs they needed across their regions, to cope during the crisis. To enable them to optimise
locations we gave each of them a list of their practices, with the locations visually
displayed on a map using different coloured isochrones to show the travel time
accessibility for those practices.
mapping functionality clearly of interest to our regions, our Associate
Director - Geographic Intelligence & Mapping Services, Trevor Foster,
contacted the national NHS England dental lead to see if this would be of
interest to other regions across the country. Rather than offering individually to other regions though, what she
did was to discuss it with the national Director
of Primary Care and System Transformation, Matt Neligan, who immediately commissioned us to do the same work
on a national basis. The information we analyse and present to him is used
every day to provide the latest picture to the Secretary of State for Health,
Matt Hancock. (Trevor says he is still waiting to see our maps on TV but it hasn’t
At the start
of the analysis a number of new urgent dental care hubs had been identified but
not yet opened across the country. We calculated the drive times to the centres
that were actually operational and within each time band we calculated what
this meant in terms of the population percentage nationally who had access to
a dental care hub within each of the particular travel times.
configuration shows a good deal of dark purple areas which means longer time to
access the hubs. We calculated that 50% of the population would be able to an access
urgent dental care hub within 30 minutes, and
84% within 60 minutes.
identified this situation Matt Neligan and his team were able to take action to
encourage regions to implement more hubs.
recent picture highlights that now 86% of the population can reach a hub within
30 minutes and 99.4% within 60 minutes, leading to significantly less dark
purple areas on the national map.
The GIS mapping
outputs which are being presented and discussed at ministerial briefings each
day have supported action to ensure that virtually the whole population can now
access an urgent dental care hub during the crisis period. Matt Neligan has
been a really responsive advocate and has provided very complementary feedback to
our GIS team.