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NHS Digital receive approval for the pathology information standards

NHS Digital has received approval from the Data Alliance Partnership Board (DAPB) for a new set of pathology information standards

NHS Digital has received approval from the Data Alliance Partnership Board (DAPB) for a new set of pathology information standards.  

This is a positive step towards the future of pathology with an overall objective to improve patient care. It will enable clinicians to access pathology tests and results across health and care, receiving the right information at the right time and right place, supporting improved clinical decision making and patient safety. 

Access the Information Standards Notice and associated documentation

As part of NHS England CCIO7 workstreams, NHS Digital are delivering the ability to share pathology results across health and care.  Following the future of healthcare vision and our standards framework response, we were commissioned by NHSX to define information standards aligned with clinical, commissioning and patient needs to support the sharing of pathology tests and results across care settings and organisational boundaries.   

The need to accelerate the development of a standardised universal test list for pathology services formed part of the recommendations made by Professor Sir Mike Richards in a wider diagnostic review commissioned by NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens in October 2020. 

Pathology standards component parts

To meet future NHS needs for interoperability and secondary care use within the Pathology domain, 3 interrelated specifications have been identified based on relevant component parts of international standards: 

  • Unified Test List (UTL) – a national catalogue of pathology test requests and results to replace the pathology Bounded Code List (PBCL), based on SNOMED CT 
  • Units of Measure (UoM) – an unambiguous representation of commonly used units, aligned with the UTL, based on Unified Code for Units of Measure (UCUM) 
  • Pathology Message Specification – for interoperable data exchange of pathology information, based on Health Level 7 (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)   

Together, as an information standard, they enable the future communication and exchange of tests, results, quantities, and units used in the Pathology domain across the NHS. The full standard is intended for use by GPs, labs, secondary care and social care (where applicable), used in GP systems, LIMS, Order Comms, pathology middleware, and clinical research. 

This diagram shows that the three pathology standards are interrelated.

The FHIR message consists of the SNOMED CT clinical coding describing the pathology test request or result, alongside the test result value and unit of measurement describing how the value should be interpreted by the recipient.

Diagram showing the different component parts


We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of the pathology information standards, both internally within NHS Digital, and externally, without whose input and guidance the approval of our standards would not have been possible.  

Although our contributors are too numerous to mention, we would like to give special thanks to our strategic partners as part of the wider NHS, our governance boards, the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB), the Royal Colleges and all our stakeholders, including national user group members, who have lent us their time and subject matter expertise.

I’d like to thank the Pathology team at NHS Digital for their excellent work, which has culminated in the approval of the pathology information standards. This is an important step towards the development of a standardised universal test list for pathology services which will benefit patients care and contribute to the promotion of pathology. 
It's great to see the pathology standards have been approved by the Data Alliance Partnership Board. This standard provides the much-needed foundation for sharing pathology tests and results nationwide.

More information

More information can be found at the Pathology and Diagnostics Information Standards Collaboration Space

We also encourage interested parties to join our online collaboration space and take part in the regular Pathology Informatics National User Group (PINUG) meetings. 

Supplier forum event

We are facilitating an all-day virtual supplier forum event on Thursday 23 September 2021, which will include a series of interactive workshops.  

The aim is to increase supplier engagement and discuss the challenges relating to implementation following the approval of the pathology information standards.  

To register your interest in attending, contact the team at [email protected].

Last edited: 19 April 2024 12:19 pm