Using demographics


19 / 6 / 2014 9.11am

No organisation can be all things to all staff. The more you know about your staff the better you can target them in a meaningful way and satisfy their particular health and wellbeing needs. The following information will give you quick, clear and actionable steps to enable your organisation to utilise demographics.

What are demographics?

Why use them?

Where to start?

NHS examples

Useful links

In summary

What are demographics?

Demographics are defined as statistical data about the characteristics of a population, such as the age, gender and income of the people within the population. Information is also available on lifestyle, employment status, accident rate and density of population per region.

The process of finding and studying the local population doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but it is extremely important. In a nutshell, it enables you to find out everything you can about the vast majority of your staff. Once you have that information, you’ll have a much better chance of engaging your staff with your initiatives.  

Why use demographics?

Push their buttons Knowing the configuration of your local population can help you to target your initiatives. For example, if the data tells you there are high levels of smokers or people with alcohol abuse issues in the area you could tailor a stop smoking or alcohol awareness campaign and know that staff would identify with this.

If you have a high percentage of staff aged 45 – 65 think about offering health checks including screening for diabetes, heart disease etc as linking initiatives to specific health conditions can increase engagement.

Speak their language -  Modifying your communications can engage those who are hard to reach in any particular group. If your data tells you that there is a high level of 18 – 30 year olds working within your trust think about the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook or any other networking sites.

If you have staff from a particular minority group consider producing materials in different languages or font.

Knowing which staff groups have access to computers can also be helpful as it might be necessary to produce hard copy flyers or copies for documents for staff to access.

Just say ‘yes’ - Identifying the potential barriers to engagement can help maximise attendance:

  • Have your staff got child care commitments?
  • Do they travel far to get to their base?
  • Are they carers?
  • Is English their first language?
  • Are the venues you are using accessible to those with additional needs?
  • Is your workforce predominately female or male?
  • Are there any identified minority groups?

Where to start?

Begin your research by checking the demographics of the region that surrounds your trust. ESR or your workforce lead will be able to tell you where your staff are mainly located.

You’ll want to know the population’s makeup in terms of age, gender, income level, occupation, education, and family circumstances: married with children, singles, or retired. To find that information, you’ll need to spend some time online. The Office of National Statistics publishes population data from the latest UK census.

See our useful links below for further data sources.

NHS examples

Barts Health NHS Trust

As part of the trust's ‘Changing lives; Our public health vision’ plan, supporting every employee to improve their health and wellbeing is a main component.

‘We employ 15,000 staff – many of whom are local residents. Being in good employment is protective of health, and a healthy workforce is beneficial for patients and for business.

The Improving Working Lives team (part of the public health team) will continue to catalyse and support the development of a working environment which enables staff to make healthy choices and reduces stress levels. This will include: encouraging and enabling staff to stop smoking encouraging and enabling staff to increase their levels of physical activity providing an excellent and proactive occupational health service ensuring managers adhere to good employment practices.

The trust will also support staff in gaining qualifications and developing their skills – to enhance both their prospects in life and the care they give to patients. We will work with staff to ensure they recognise their key role in the success of improving public health, and are willing and able to make every patient contact count. We intend to train 150 staff every year to gain the Royal Society for Public Health Understanding Health Improvement qualification to enable them to do this.’

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

The trust’s health and wellbeing strategy is now four years old and has matured from the initial implementation of national guidance towards the provision of a focused programme still based on national guidance but supplemented with employee feedback, sickness statistics and evaluation of the health needs of the trust’s workforce. It forms a fundamental part of the trust’s long term approach to employee sickness absence as well as being an essential element of their Public Health agenda.

In the opening remarks of their public health strategy, the trust’s chairman, Richard Samuda and their chief executive, Toby Lewis, say “Last year the NHS celebrated her 65th birthday. Our trust successfully embodies much that is great about our service. Yet we believe that our NHS has to adapt to meet the demographic and economic challenges of the next twenty years. If we do that, by becoming an institution focused on maintaining health as well as treating sickness, then we can look forward with confidence to reducing premature deaths and the limits of lifelong ill health in our population.”

Useful links

Health Profiles are designed to help local government and health services identify problems in their areas and decide how to tackle them. They provide a snapshot of the overall health of the local population, and highlight potential problems through comparison with other areas and with the national average.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognised national statistical institute for the UK. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. It also conducts the census in England and Wales every ten years.

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) is the national electronic database of NHS patient demographic details such as name, address, date of birth and NHS Number.


  • The PDS does not hold any clinical or sensitive data items such as ethnicity or religion. The PDS is a component part of the Spine.
  • The Spine is the name given to the national databases of key information about patients' health and care.
  • The Spine also supports other key programmes such as Choose and Book and the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), each of them using the Spine's messaging capabilities as part of their own services.
  • Information on the PDS is held nationally and accessed by authorised healthcare professionals through their organisation's local system.

NHS Confederation - Key statistics on the NHS  -  This data was last updated in February 2015. The figures apply to England, unless otherwise stated.

Health and Social Care Information Centre The national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care.

Health and Safety Executive Information on occupational injuries, ill-health, and enforcement action, for Scotland, Wales and the English regions. Data is available from two sources:

  • RIDDOR - Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 - Workplace injury data from 2001/02.
  • LFS - Labour Force Survey - Workplace injury and work-related ill health data from 2001/02.

2014 Local Health Profiles

The profiles draw together information to present a picture of health in each local area in a user-friendly format. They are a valuable tool for local government and health services in helping them to understand their communities’ needs, so that they can work to improve people’s health and reduce health inequalities.

In summary

  • Use the information you already have readily available
  • Research your workforce using external sources
  • Speak to others in your region
  • Tailor your interventions to maximise engagement
  • Know how to communicate with your staff
  • Overcome any barriers to engagement

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