If we want to deliver an effective, connected health and care system we must get the basics right – and that means adopting standards consistently. By Lorraine Foley from the Professional Record Standards Body

It is easy to write standards off as bureaucratic red tape that has never delivered anything useful, let alone useable or used. But how else can you select best-of-breed products or swap out solutions that do not work? Standards enable an evolutionary architecture that avoids supplier lock-in, distrust and legal challenges.

However, it is no good just asserting or even thinking that suppliers and their customers have implemented standards. It must be objectively tested to be of value. The Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) knows this from developing the Standards Partnership Scheme, which awards a recognised Quality Mark to suppliers who undergo conformance assessment successfully against our information record standards.

In depth testing of IT solutions by expert informaticians shines a light on implementation issues, and both the standards themselves and supplier systems are positively improved by the process in a learning health system.

PRSB is working with NHS England’s Digital Social Care Record (DSCR) team to assess conformance to the Personalised Care and Support Plan Standard and About Me Standard with social care suppliers. There are 20+ assured solutions that have implemented NHS England’s core capabilities for interoperability and PRSB standards.

Social care ahead of the game

The Digital Social Care Record assured supplier list has moved the market rapidly, enabling providers to purchase a solution, confident that it can interoperate with systems across health and care, sharing patient information and ultimately improving patient care. Social care is in an enviable position, ahead of the game, in shifting the supplier market to meet people’s needs.

Suppliers understand the necessity of standards and they want the NHS, including local provider organisations and social care providers, to require conformance as part of procurements. That is why they have joined our Standards Partnership Scheme in large numbers and are undertaking conformance assessment against PRSB standards.

Shrewd commissioners are combining digitally enabled clinical transformation with compliant suppliers and standards in their change programmes.  This is how PRSB developed the Diabetes Standard in collaboration with NHS England, which the South London Health Innovation Network is now piloting with local system suppliers. Just think how much more effective we could be in a system wide drive.

Suppliers mandated to implement standards

As 2024 approaches, smart organisations are set on meeting the requirements of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, now working its way through Parliament. The Bill will establish a national conformance process against certain Information Standards Notices, and enforcement powers against those standards, with suppliers mandated to implement them and be conformant by the ISN deadline. (Scotland is similarly considering legislative levers.) But we don’t need to wait for it, we should seize the opportunity to encourage suppliers in this direction now.

As we do it is important to bear in mind:

  • The DSCR assured list proves the value of conformance assessment.
  • Our focus has been on semantic and functional conformance against standards – an essential foundation – but we also need a joined-up process that tests interoperability and useability, while minimising the burden on suppliers.
  • Supplier conformance is a huge advance but not enough. We also need to assure how standards are implemented locally.
  • The ultimate test is whether information flows support clinical efficiency and improve care (and increasingly will support people’s role in self-reported data and self-care).

Provider organisations have an opportunity to get on the front foot and demonstrate their systems and local implementations are conformant with standards.

Lorraine Foley is chief executive officer of the Professional Record Standards Body




For information or support with standards and conformance contact PRSB at info@theprsb.org.