Ambulance trusts in England will now have the opportunity to share geographical data with other trusts as part of a deal between the Health and Social Care Information Centre and Ordnance Survey.

The Ordnance Survey has announced that 31 ambulance trusts will now be able to join the agreement, signed in November 2005. They will now just be given access to the same services through the OS as the rest of the NHS, such as demographic information and healthcare statistics.

A spokesperson for the OS told E-Health Insider that the reason for the delay was that existing agreements between ambulance trusts and the OS, which did not include sharing of healthcare information, were still in place in November and only expired at the beginning of the month.

The data supplied under the agreement with the HSCIC includes both data from the OS on population density, weather and administrative boundaries, but also information from other healthcare organisations such as statistics on long-term illness and cancer.

According to the OS, trusts may find the data useful for planning, epidemiological analysis and targeting services. Route planning services are also included in the package.

"GI [geographic information] can support day-to-day decision making as well as long-term planning for a range of essential services, such as emergency response, patient transport, and incident control," said Vanessa Lawrence, director general and chief executive of Ordnance Survey.

"It gives health managers the ability to use Ordnance Survey data to support their operations and policies and to meet key performance targets. It also encourages interoperability by enabling the NHS to share geographically referenced information with emergency services, government departments and local authorities."

The original agreement was signed in November 2005. Out of 600 eligible NHS organisations, including PCTs and strategic health authorities, a total of 330 have applied to join.

An example given by the OS of how one organisation is using the system is Bolton Primacy Care Trust. The trust is using geographic information to plot their distribution of resources, and looking at transport links to decide new resource centres.

"By plotting the impact of various policy change scenarios, managers have a clear visual tool which helps them grasp the implications of decisions in a way that a set of spreadsheets never can," David Holt from Bolton PCT said.

Denise Lievesley, chief executive of HSCIC, said at the pilot’s launch in November: "Geographic information is needed to underpin vital services and to improve efficiency in the use of health resources. The provision of products and service s from Ordnance Survey is a key element in the role of the HSCIC to provide information to inform decisions in health and social care."


Digital geographic information deal puts NHS on the map