The implementation of SNOMED CT in general practice is due to commence from April 2018 with a phased roll-out approach, NHS Digital has said.

SNOWMED CT is already used in many hospitals and means once the system is rolled out across general practice, coded documents can start to be exchanged seamlessly, reducing overheads of data entry at various points in the care process.

As different models of care evolve, this is a critical change to facilitate data sharing and support the effective management of patient care.

An implementation update published by NHS Digital has revealed that the phased transition from the existing Read/CTV Codes to SNOWMED CT will start from 1 April in order to ensure it is safely done.

The implementation of the new coding will involve embedding a new clinical terminology into the existing clinical IT systems that GP practices use to manage patient care.

However, SNOMED CT will not have to be implemented across summary care and e-referrals, which means clinical system suppliers already have experience using it.

NHS Digital said on its site that the first phase of deployment will begin at pilot sites in approximately 20 GP practices across the country, including all the principal GP clinical system suppliers.

The site adds: “The pilots will provide valuable insight into how SNOMED CT is working for practices and identity any further support or modifications prior to full implementation.”

Wider roll-out will follow the pilot phase, with expected implementation to be completed by autumn 2018.

Principal GP clinical system suppliers are expected to inform GP practices of their deployment plans.

NHS Digital said it “will continue to work closely with clinical system suppliers, CCGs, GP IT delivery partners (such as CSUs) and GP practices to ensure SNOMED CT implementation in general practice progresses effectively and to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible”.

Back in 2015, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) announced that primary care systems needed to make the move to SNOMED by the end of December 2016, while the rest of the healthcare system should follow suit by April 2020.