NHS Digital will be having a “big drive” on standardising clinical terminology across health and social care, according to one of its leaders.

Beverley Bryant, the organisation’s director of digital transformation, told delegates at the UK e-Health Week conference that such standardisation was critical for data sharing.

“What is the point of being a national health service if we don’t capitalise on the national nature of it through standardisation of our clinical terminology?”

She told the London audience on Thursday that: “I need SNOMED clinical terminology to become the central building block of information sharing across health and social care”.

In October 2015, NHS Digital (then known as the Health & Social Care Information Centre) said that all primary care systems needed to switch from Read Codes to the SNOMED system for clinical technology by end of December 2016, with the rest of the healthcare system following suit by April 2020.

Both systems are sets of numerical machine readable codes and human readable descriptions which can be used to uniquely identify clinical concepts.

Bryant said that primary care was not the issue – “it’s in secondary care that we’ve got a lot more work to do”.
She also said that NHS Digital has started work on a social care dictionary for SNOMED terminology.
Bryant said that standardisation “does reduce data collection burdens and transform how we share information and data”.

A few examples were given of how datasets were being linked across the healthcare system, including via the Child Protection – Information Sharing (CPIS) programme.

CP-IS is now receiving 1,000 hits a week between social care and selected healthcare teams, according to Bryant, and was described as a “really useful intervention for frontline patient care”. However, the rollout of the system has been slower than was initially hoped.

NHS Digital’s commissioning last year of the Professional Record Standards Body to develop standards for e-discharge summaries from emergency departments to GPs – it will do so in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians – was also referenced.

Bryant concluded the speech by saying whatever the result of the upcoming general election, the momentum and pace that is now in health IT cannot be halted.

Throughout the conferences, questions to speakers from national bodies were not allowed due to purdah.