Health services are susceptible to changes in health need, resource allocation, public-health debates and health policies.
Service mapping is considered a useful tool for analysing complex issues, monitoring changes over time and facilitating change. It also enables one to describe pathways of care and the relationships between services.
This article centres on two projects–a London-wide project ‘Service networks for HIV Care’ and a local survey ‘Mapping of HIV-related services for illicit drug users’–and demonstrates the usefulness of mapping for both studies.
Mapping of service networks allowed exploration of a variety of connections between treatment centres, and led to recommendations for a model of HIV service networks across London.
The mapping of HIV-related services for illicit drug users confirmed that the service provision was balanced in time, space and target groups, but also identified gaps showing that services were not very successful in attracting women and members of ethnic minority groups.
It is clear from both studies that mapping provides an overview of existing services, describing details of services, their target groups or links. It can assist to monitor changes over time, to reconfigure services according to need, and to target resources where need becomes apparent.
Mapping exercises also can be useful in identifying new areas for collaboration and interagency work.