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SNOMED CT

SNOMED CT is a structured clinical vocabulary for use in an electronic health record. It is the most comprehensive and precise clinical health terminology product in the world.

SNOMED CT is a clinical vocabulary readable by computers

Used in electronic health records, SNOMED CT is the most comprehensive and precise terminology product in the world, with extensive adoption across the globe.

SNOMED CT gives clinical IT systems a single shared language, which makes exchanging information between systems easier, safer and more accurate. It contains all the clinical terms needed for the whole NHS, from procedures and symptoms through to clinical measurements, diagnoses and medications.

The UK edition of SNOMED CT also contains the UK extensions. These provide terms specifically required in the UK, such as UK screening procedures, assessment scales and British English spellings.


SNOMED CT is an important requirement for electronic patient records

The use of SNOMED CT as a consistent vocabulary for recording patient clinical information across the NHS helps ensure data is recorded consistently and accurately. This simplifies exchanging clinical information between systems. For example, clinical information in a discharge summary can be incorporated directly into a GP patient record, without a care professional having to re-enter the data by hand, not only saving time, but also avoiding the chance of human error.

The use of computerised clinical decision support within systems is also increasing, supporting care professionals and patients by allowing their IT systems to react to clinical information. For example, some systems have rules that alert care providers to the early signs of sepsis or, in a hospital setting, a specialist team might be automatically alerted that a patient with Parkinson’s disease has been admitted. These functions enable better patient care by ensuring the right information is given to the right people at the right time.


National requirements for SNOMED CT

All NHS healthcare providers in England must now use SNOMED CT for capturing clinical terms within electronic patient record systems. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales also have programmes of work underway in relation to SNOMED CT; each devolved nation should be consulted for relevant details.

The use of SNOMED CT is a National Information Standard, and therefore a contractual requirement; further details can be obtained in the SNOMED CT Information Standards Notice. The user guide in the Release section of the standard provides useful information.


SNOMED CT is used across the world

SNOMED CT is used in many different healthcare settings, from improving the treatment of breast cancer in Sweden to managing allergies in Buenos Aires. Case studies can be found on the SNOMED International website.

In England, all GP systems capture clinical terms using SNOMED CT. It is used across the health service in systems and services as diverse as:

  • the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF)
  • identifying patients for flu vaccinations
  • Electronic Referral Service (e-RS)
  • Summary Care Records

SNOMED CT resources

The SNOMED CT Implementation sharing platform (Delen) is home to information, education and training about the SNOMED CT UK Edition and SNOMED CT Drug Extension. SNOMED CT Implementation resources are also found on this page.


Requests for change

If you are requesting terms for use in Scotland, please email request to phs.terminologyhelp@phs.scot.

For the rest of the UK, see the UK SNOMED CT Request Submission Portal for how to request changes to SNOMED CT in the UK, UK Drug Extension and Dictionary of Medicines and Devices (dm+d).


Contact details

If you require support you can also email our helpdesk at snomed.implementation@nhs.net.

Further information

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Last edited: 15 January 2021 11:18 am