Case Study

How NHS SCW Uses TravelTime to Make Strategic Decisions in Healthcare

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Many NHS Commissioning Support Units, like South, Central and West (SCW), are working with NHS departments to cut costs, increase efficiency, improve communication and provide quality care to patients.  

SCW uses TravelTime data to create GIS mapping tools to achieve these goals. The end result is that departments can visualise the number of patients in a certain area, and the time it would take for those patients to reach local services.


This allows the NHS to

  • Plan how many staff and services should be available in a certain area
  • Understand how changes to healthcare services will affect local communities
  • Identify the best locations to provide new services

TravelTime helps SCW to understand geographical locations and services, which in turn helps NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to make strategic decisions. SCW has integrated TravelTime into their GP Map tool, which allows users to see the distribution of patients within a certain catchment area.

This map can show that a certain GP practice is oversubscribed and have patients with excessive travel times. Using TravelTime insights it’s easy to identify alternative easy to reach practices to provide for the population. This would not only cut costs and increase efficiency, but would improve health services to the community overall.

The creation of these maps was historically both time consuming and relied on desktop mapping tools and manual processes available to the team. In a rapidly evolving Healthcare environment, information would quickly become out of date and obsolete.

This meant that healthcare providers could be wasting precious time and resources attempting to understand their community and highlight services using the wrong information. The TravelTime API has allowed SCW to give all users access to a definitive online mapping portal with dynamic travel time calculations and visualisations.

SCW’s GIS and primary care team provide Geographic Intelligence and Mapping services to Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England, GP Practices, Public Health, Community Health and Acute Hospital Trusts. The team have integrated the TravelTime API into their mapping tools for one-off projects to solve complex healthcare challenges, such as making the decision to close or retain a new stroke centre in a particular area.

SCW also use TravelTime to help them provide long-term business services, such as Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNAs) maps. PNAs are a document that review access to pharmaceutical services.

These documents must be updated at regular intervals and provide maps that show where pharmaceutical services are in the area. The maps show access to various pharmaceutical services via different modes of transport and at different times of the day, and use up-to-date information. This has not only allowed healthcare professionals to complete PNAs with ease, but to have a greater understanding of underserved areas in their community.

For healthcare providers, it can be difficult to have an overview of services. This means that certain areas can become oversubscribed. It also means that it is difficult to identify areas where new services could be introduced, which would prevent patients travelling for a long time to receive care.

Viewing boundaries and the spread of the registered population in relation to the time it takes for patients to reach services can help practitioners to make strategic decisions. By having a greater understanding of the coverage of its services the NHS can make decisions about where to open new centres to relieve the pressure on oversubscribed services.

SCW have used the TravelTime API to create multiple mapping tools that assist both with strategic level planning and the day-to-day operational running of NHS services.

SCW used travel time to allow GP practice staff to:

  • Check travel time zones to and route times (drive, public transport, walk) from an address to the surgery location.

This spreads resources and saves staff and patients time. Checking travel times allows any member of practice staff to advise whether patients are within the boundary to register at the practice.

It also means that GPs can easily identify other practices, and find community pharmacies in areas that might be more convenient for patients to visit when refilling prescriptions.

TravelTime also allows NHS England and CCGs to:

  • Retrieve more in-depth practice statistics, e.g. Number of patients within each drive-time zone.

This allows users to model practice mergers or hubbed practices, which means NHS England can have a full understanding of how changes to GP services will affect local communities.

SCW used TravelTime data to create a mapping tool that allowed for deep analysis of information by easy to use, interactive maps that allow users to visualise multiple layers of data.

For example, the interactive map below consists of layers of travel time information, such as:

  • Hospital travel access zones (drive-time areas for acute and community hospitals)
  • Travel access isochrones (private vehicle, public transport, walking) to GP surgeries
  • Population numbers and percentage within the travel time

SCW can combine this travel time information with other population data, such as

  • Ethnicity
  • Deprivation indicator at Census Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) level
  • Electoral wards

The combination of travel time with this information can help users view patterns in deprived areas, and discover if certain electoral wards have better access than others. The more that users can see, the easier it becomes to make decisions about the provision of services.

A summary of other services and tools provided are:

  • GP practice maps, e.g. GP practice contractual area with registered patient spread
  • Practice mergers or impact analysis for surgery closures
  • GP practice coverage maps
  • Analysis (reports and maps) of patient movement between GP practices, supporting; practice closures, mergers or new surgeries opening, and re-allocation of patients to practices
  • Pharmacy application maps (supporting market entry management)
  • Dispensing list validation
  • Housing development areas
  • Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) packs; an information pack consisting of GP practice maps with the patient spread, deprivation, travel access (driving, walking, public transport)
  • ‘Heat maps’ (choropleth) to present thematically styled ranges of variable information at geographical levels, e.g. Census Lower Super Output Area (LSOA), electoral ward, postcode sector
  • Needs assessment analysis and mapping
  • Locality/federation maps
  • Workforce analysis and mapping, e.g. numbers of doctors approaching retirement age
  • Printed wall maps

Trevor Foster, Head of Geographic Intelligence and Mapping says:

"TravelTime data was essential when analysing GP and other healthcare data. It helped local practices understand their patients better and as a result could improve the service offering. TravelTime helped make more informed decisions on coverage areas and practice closures using patient travel time data.”

SCW have used the TravelTime API to create mapping tools that provide powerful visualisations of information, allowing healthcare practitioners to gain a greater understanding of the communities they serve, and make decisions about how to improve their service while increasing efficiency and cutting costs.

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