SNOMED CT in primary care - implementation update

Summary

The implementation of SNOMED CT in general practice will commence from April 2018 with a phased roll-out approach, ensuring year-end processes can be completed prior to implementation.

SNOMED CT is an international vocabulary of clinical terms. The commitment to move to a single clinical terminology across the NHS is a long-standing objective outlined in the 'Personalised Health and Care 2020 Framework'. The aim is for SNOMED CT to be adopted across the entire healthcare system by 1 April 2020. 

SNOMED CT is already used in many hospitals and rolling this out in general practice means 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.

SNOMED CT will replace Read/CTV3 Codes in general practice clinical systems. This will help clinicians and health and care workers to accurately record and share information about the treatment of patients using a consistent coding approach that can be understood across the entire NHS. In addition, SNOMED CT provides a single common coding system across the NHS that will support broader international health and care research.

NHS Digital is co-ordinating SNOMED CT implementation within general practice and is working closely with the principal clinical system suppliers to ensure a smooth transition. 

Changing the main clinical coding terminology from Read/CTV3 to SNOMED CT is a complex process. Implementation involves embedding a new clinical terminology into the existing clinical IT systems that GP practices use to manage patient care. SNOMED CT has however, been used for some time in Summary Care Records and eReferrals, so clinical system suppliers are already experienced with SNOMED CT. 

From 1 April 2018, the phased approach will enable clinical systems to preserve both SNOMED CT and Read/CTV3 Codes for a period of time to support a safe transition.

The first phase of deployment will commence with pilot sites in approximately 20 GP practices across the country; these will include all the principal GP clinical system suppliers. 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 will inform GP practices of their deployment plans. 

NHS Digital 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. 

CCGs should familiarise themselves with SNOMED CT and the support available via NHS Digital and GPSoC clinical system suppliers. CCGs should work closely with locally commissioned GP IT delivery partners and general practices to ensure general practices are fully sighted on the transition requirements, highlighting the associated benefits and signposting available support, in order to facilitate a seamless transition to SNOMED CT for general practice.