The reference data provided in the registers supports operational needs such as messaging, activity reporting, electronic health records, access control and so on. If systems and processes are to interact in a standard way, they must hold a synchronised view of this reference data. The registers facilitate this by enabling all users to obtain the same data, from the same sources.
Currently, reference and metadata are sourced, maintained and published by a large range of disparate organisations, teams and departments spread across the system, using a range of different format and technologies. This makes obtaining and using this data cumbersome, time-consuming and inefficient.
The ultimate vision for The NHS Data Registers Service is to rationalise and consolidate the reference data ecosystem. It will provide all customers with a single trusted source for all the reference and metadata needed by the system, to be surfaced and applied consistently. Having this reference point allows clinicians, healthcare administrators and government bodies to apply consistent definitions which in turn provides a single and authoritative version of the truth. This in turn will enable the fast-tracking of interoperability between systems and processes across health and social care.
Most published data are underpinned by Data and Information Standards as defined in s250 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, or other statistical standards (for example, Index of Multiple Deprivation). For a minority of data there remains no standard, for example mappings and groupings, although these have high utility across NHS organisations and government departments.
It is important to note that NHS Digital is not always the single source (or custodian) for the Data Registers it provides. NHS Digital acts on behalf of the custodian to ensure that key NHS reference data are managed effectively and published in (near-) real time, ensuring a high degree of trust across the health system. NHS Digital’s role, and the approach described, was endorsed by the Government Digital Service in early-2018.
Illustrative examples where authoritative registers have been used, as follows: