‘How NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) is helping public health professionals to uncover patterns and trends in health outcomes using interactive online maps’


The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) collects and manages data held in a wide range of national datasets on behalf of NHS Wales and the Welsh government. This includes hospital admissions data, the National Community Child Health Database (NCCHD), outpatient attendances as well as birth and death registrations.

NWIS wanted to develop a ‘one-stop shop’ to improve access to this data and also provide a more complete picture of health for public health professionals and commissioners in small regions. It felt that low-level geographic maps using Census output areas would give them a better understanding of their local health needs and inform spending plans.

Getting started

NWIS developed an interactive tool called Health Maps Wales in collaboration with the Welsh government to map a range of health indicators within broad categories. The NWIS team worked closely with Public Health Wales and the Welsh Government to establish consistent methodologies for each of the indicators. In all over 1,000 indicators were developed many of which had over 10 years’ worth of data at different geographic levels. Sally Cox, Senior Information Analyst, says: “We had seen Instant Atlas being used on other health information websites such as Diabetes UK and by Public Health Observatories around the UK and it met the needs of NHS Wales.”

The team worked closely with Public Health Wales and the Welsh Government to established consistent methodologies for the planned indicators. In all over 1,000 indicators were developed many of which had over 10 years’ worth of data at different geographic levels.

Meeting the need

Health Maps Wales allows users to explore data by area, map trends in data over time and make comparison at a local and national level. In 2012 the site had over 4,500 unique users mostly from the NHS, the Welsh government and local government as well as researchers, academia, clinical networks, patient groups and charities. The top three most explored datasets in were: hospital admissions due to alcohol, cancer incidence and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

Sally says: “The simple visual analysis of data through the use of interactive maps provides valuable support to public health professionals, allowing them to quickly uncover patterns and trends. The site also provides vital information for more in-depth investigative work. Overall, HMW provides a more effective use of the corporate health data captured in Wales which ultimately improves value for money.”


In North Wales, Health Maps Wales was used to track Tonsillectomy rates to ensure evidence-based guidance is being followed. After North Wales was shown to have higher Tonsillectomy rates, efforts were made to help Ear Nose and Throat clinicians and GPs work in line with the guidance.

Jo Charles, Associate Director of Public Health, Public Health Wales, says: “Monitoring the effectiveness of the targeted work is crucial for Health Boards and their Public Health teams. Whilst improvements can be tracked within each Health Board area, Health Maps Wales analysis of common procedures is currently the only regular source data which allows comparison across Health Board areas.”

Future developments

Sally says: “We intend to add more data and functionality to the maps including area profiles reports, and plan to collaborate further with other areas of health such as primary care.”

Key benefits

  • Provides a single authoritative view and ability to compare health data across Welsh Health Boards
  • Analysts spend less time generating common analysis requests and more time on other projects
  • Users have better access to complex date which is presented in an easy-to-understand and visually compelling format
  • Health Maps Wales has encouraged more partnerships across NHS Wales through collaborative working
  • Health Maps Wales is improving efficiency through the effective use of high quality health data

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