The NHS Atlas series is pivotal in the interrogation of routinely available data that relate investment, activity and outcome to the whole population in need and not just those who happen to make contact with a particular service.  Only by taking this population perspective can we trigger the search for unwarranted variation and assess the value of the healthcare provided both to populations and to individuals.

In many localities across England, the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare series has been used as a stimulus to start a search for unwarranted variation, and as a springboard to releasing resources for re-investment in higher-value healthcare for local patients and populations.

Interactive Atlases

We have provided an interactive version of the atlases which enables organisations to interrogate the data at a local level. The tool allows users to view maps, charts, time series data and associated statistics across all the indicators presented within the atlas. Organisations can use the tool to see where they sit within the national landscape or within their peer groups.

Diagnostic atlas user guide

The User Guide for Diagnostics Atlas of Variation – Instant Atlas contains a general overview of how to use the instant atlases.  Guidance is provided for looking at peers and regionally breaking down the data

Why are NHS Atlases needed?

Work must continue to deepen our insights into variation seen around the country in the activity and outcomes for patients and to understand whether the variation observed is random, warranted (i.e. true clinical variation based on geographical variation in need) or unwarranted and caused by under- or over- provision, failure to implement evidence guidelines or poor access for patients because of travelling times, socioeconomic factors or poor health literacy.

The data and information presented in each of the atlases does not always explain the reason for the variation, however the strength and power of the atlas series is in the questions they raise about equity, effectiveness and value. The data on variation shown in the atlases can be triangulated with data from other sources such as PHE’s National Intelligence Networks, Health Profiles and Spend and Outcome Tools, alongside NHS RightCare’s Intelligence, formally Commissioning for Value, packs.

The Atlases are produced by Public Health England (PHE) and in developing and publishing this series, PHE consults with NHS RightCare, NHS National Clinical Directors (NCDs), various Department of Health teams and the Health Intelligence Networks to highlight unexpected levels of variation within their area of expertise.

Get in touch

If you have any queries or comments about the Atlas series, please contact