I appreciate the journey is not yet over, but I wanted to take some time out to say a big thank you to Trevor, Rich, and the wider team, for all their hard work and efforts in our response to Covid 19, in particular the development and operationalisation of an Urgent Dental Care Mapping tool for hubs across England, including estimated travel times. This has been welcomed by commissioners and senior colleagues within NHSE and has made a real difference to our planning and reporting processes. Emma Wallis, 5th May 2020
Making sure 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.
With this 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 happened yet!)
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.
The original 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.
Having identified this situation Matt Neligan and his team were able to take action to encourage regions to implement more hubs.
The most 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.