Demographics and metrics


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 and metrics in your organisation.

What are demographics?

Why use them?

Where to start?

Useful links

What are metrics?

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?

Target your initiatives - 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 of 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 make up in terms of age, gender, income level, occupation, education, and family circumstances (eg 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.

Useful links

Local Authority 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 Digital is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care.

Health and Safety Executive provides information on occupational injuries, ill health, and enforcement action for Scotland, Wales and the English regions. 

Top tips for using demographics

  • 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.

What are metrics? 

Metrics are all about making raw and basic data easy to interpret and understand. They help you recognise good practice and spot areas that you need to improve on. Metrics can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a really complex set of data and formulae. Metrics allow you to prove the case for health and wellbeing initiatives to the board, target key areas for improvement and highlight hot spots for further support. They enable you to understand the current position of your organisation, but only become useful when you do something with the data you have gathered, such as:

  • informing, planning, and evaluating your health and wellbeing programmes and initiatives
  • informing your health and wellbeing strategy
  • challenge and informing your board
  • helping you to map engagement for key stakeholders. 

Metrics are readily available and are used regularly by analysts, as well as all sorts of managers within the NHS, who find them invaluable. Using metrics lets you create simple visual summaries of important information, allowing you to present them clearly and flexibly to people who really need to see it, such as your board.

How health and wellbeing can be measured:

  • staff sickness absence
  • top five reasons for absence
  • return to work meeting numbers
  • vacancy establishment
  • HR / OH interventions and referrals
  • agency and bank staff usage
  • staff survey response rates
  • appraisal rates
  • mandatory training rates
  • induction rates.

All the above is really useful data, allowing you to target important areas and hot spots for interventions and developments. Key questions to ask are what impact is this metric having on my staff, or on patient care and do I need to talk to my staff about this metric so I can understand the context of this and the impact this is having? 

You can use metrics to assess and find out the impact of workplace interventions, training and workshops in your wellbeing programme, such as:

  • what your employees are engaged in
  • what works for your organisation
  • what they thought of an event
  • what they would like to see in the future.

Key questions to ask before you start putting metrics together

  • What is it you are trying to achieve? What information do you need and why?
  • Where are you going to find this data? The ESR database? Surveys? Websites?
  • How are you going to use it? Setup/review an intervention? Showcase success?
  • Who is this information for – Staff? Managers? The board? Patients? Public?
  • What should it look like – statistics? graphs? key points? hard-hitting facts?
  • What do I need to do it – Information? Contacts? Engagement? Expert advice?
  • What can you do, and what do you need help with? know your limits, ask for help
  • How are you going to share this information? Social and digital media? Contacts?
  • How are you going to evaluate this metric and put it to good use?

The Electronic Staff Record (ESR)

The Electronic Staff Record (ESR) comes with a web-based reporting tool called ESR Business Intelligence (ESR BI). In your organisation there will be experts who use this system daily. Make links with them to understand the metrics available, and what you can do with them.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre: sickness absence rates

A good example of metrics in use are the national sickness absence rates that the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) creates every quarter. These spreadsheets are full of data but are still easy to read and categorised into organisation, organisation type and area.

They show clearly which organisations have low sickness absence and which ones are not doing so well. These are publicly available and free to download from their website and are very useful to compare your own organisation with others in terms of absence rates. This data shows which organisations are doing well, so you can make contact with them and improve your own policies and wellbeing programmes and reduce absence rates.

The Bradford Factor 

The Bradford Factor Calculator is another simple and useful metrics tool. It is a straightforward formula that calculates a specific weighting (the overall impact that absences will have on an organisation) for employee unplanned absences. The higher the number, the greater impact it will be having on an organisation. It allows managers to monitor short-term sickness (i.e. minor non-recurring absences such as a headache or an upset stomach) over a year to determine whether it is excessive. It assumes that more frequent one-day absences are more disruptive than fewer longer periods of sickness.

The Bradford Calculator gives a specific number for an individual employee that can then be compared to that of others and categorised within certain thresholds in order to establish whether the employee’s short-term sickness is too high. It is only a guide but can be used as a pointer to further, more comprehensive investigation. Using the calculator helps to discourage excessive absenteeism and allows managers to compare short-term sickness across the department and organisations as a whole. To use the calculator and for more information please see the Bradford Factor Calculator website.

NHS examples 

Our four feature trusts have effectively used metrics to evaluate their health and wellbeing programmes and to target their initiatives. Find out how by visiting our Leading the Way section.

If you would like to share how your trust uses metrics please contact


Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In