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How the National Population Database Assisted in the Pandemic Response

Graphic representing the data layers of the National Population Database

The Challenge

Back in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an opportunity to assist the national response effort. By making the National Population Database (NPD) available to organisations co-ordinating social distancing measures, we could play our part in what was to be a long-term fight against the virus.

The Solution

The NPD is a unique Geographical Information System (GIS) dataset that enables the numbers of residents, workers and other population types to be estimated in any location, down to individual building level, in Great Britain. Developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the dataset pulls together HSE's own data with information from Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail, presenting it on a map using a purpose-built portal.

The NPD's dataset is so trusted and reliable that it is used by the UK Government's 'Resilience Direct' platform. This secure, online network for sharing real time information enables emergency services to deliver an efficient and co-ordinated response in situations that impact civil protection.

By presenting valuable population data in layers, the NPD can present population hotspots on a map for different times of the day and night. Population types are shown by building (schools, hospitals, prisons and others) or at a 100 metre grid level if a wider overview of a location is required. Even greater detail means that users can fine-tune data to their particular application; for example, the Schools layer includes separate figures for primary, secondary and tertiary students as well as the total figure across all ages.

The NPD's many layers and multiple population types allow you to create specific population scenarios. For instance, consider the fictional scenario of a toxic plume being released near the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield on a Wednesday between 1 and 2pm. For a realistic summary of that time and place, you would include the school, childcare and care home layers and pick daytime populations from the residential and workplace layers. Having entered the plume dimensions, the NPD can be used to help estimate the risk, by assessing the numbers of people affected in each category as well as the number and type of buildings and other infrastructure under the plume.

The Outcome

A number of organisations used the NPD as part of their pandemic planning and response efforts between April 2020 and Sept 2021:

  • Cabinet Office
  • Joint Biosecurity Centre/Dept Health and Social Care (Test and Trace)
  • Home Office
  • Scottish Govt / Public Health Scotland
  • Welsh Government
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Ordnance Survey

Cabinet Office Department of Health and Social Care logo Home Office logo

Public Health Scotland Welsh Government logo Ministry of Defence

Hampshire County Council logo Ordnance Survey logo

The NPD is being used to provide contextual information for industry and workforce breakdowns. It will continue to provide useful insight into regional variations in industry and employment beyond the pandemic. [JBC/DHSC];

the data was really useful throughout the pandemic, and was used for analysis work around co-ordinating covid response. [MoD];

See for yourself!
The NPD portal lets you experiment on a demonstration dataset. How would you use it?

Watch our video introduction of the tool below. Can't see the video? View it here



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