New DH atlas of variation includes prescriptions of anti-dementia drugs and admissions for child mental health disorders

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The second issue of the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare has been published by the Department of Health as part of the QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) programme. The aim of the Atlas is to reduce unwarranted variation in healthcare, increase value for money and improve quality of care.

The idea behind this publication is that commissioners should use it to identify any variations in their local area and take actions to reduce unwarranted variation within their locality, or between their locality and other areas of the country.

The maps in the atlas are not intended to be used as targets or performance tables but rather to highlight variation and support local discussion and decisions, and to help commissioners learn from each other.

Commissioners should consider the appropriateness of services and investigate when clinical health outcomes are not reflecting the financial investment that has been made.

A mental health atlas may be produced at some point in the future, but for the time being there are a few indicators that relate to mental health:

  • Prescriptions of anti-dementia drugs
  • Admissions for child mental health disorders
  • Prescriptions of hypnotic drugs
  • Alcohol related admissions

One of the variations highlighted by the 2011 issue of the atlas is the 25-fold variation in anti-dementia drugs prescribing rates across England, with Sheffield PCT prescribing the most and Torbay PCT the least.


Atlas of variation 2011 website

NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare 2011 – interactive online version

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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