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Health Care Terms

Volume 264: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has had expressing support for a standard thesaurus for terms used in the caring services. [38027]

The national health service has created a standard thesaurus of health care terms used by the clinical professions. This thesaurus is available in read coded format for use in computerised clinical information systems.Expressions of support for the read coded standard thesaurus of health care terms have been received from the following organisations:

  • British Medical Association
  • Joint Consultants Committee
  • Conference of Medical Royal Colleges
  • Royal College of Nursing
  • Royal College of Midwives
  • Health Visitors Association
  • The Spinario Federation
  • College of Speech and Language Therapists
  • British Dietetic Association
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  • British Psychological Society
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

The following organisations have supported a scoping project to assess the extension of the read codes thesaurus into the personal social services arena:

  • Association of Directors of Social Services
  • Social Services Inspectorate

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received registering dissatisfaction about the misunderstanding of terms used in the caring profession. [38026]

In 1991, the chief executive of the national health service set up a working group consisting of representatives of the Conference of Medical Royal Colleges and their Faculties in the United Kingdom, the joint consultants committee, the general medical services committee of the British Medical Association and the NHS executive. The group's function is to advise him on the medically orientated NHS executive initiatives which have an information technology element and to strengthen the medical profession's contribution to this work. The group was later expanded to include the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Health Visitors Association and the representative bodies of the professions allied to medicine.The professional bodies on the working group pointed out that without a common language useful communication is impossible. It was immediately recognised as vital to establish an agreed thesaurus of clinical terms without which computerised clinical information systems in the NHS could not capture, store, compare and transfer data. It was also agreed that the professions had to take the lead in this project to ensure professional "ownership" and commitment.The proposals to create the thesaurus of terms common to all sectors of the NHS was approved by the working group and subsequently endorsed by the clinical professions involved.This common thesaurus of terms used by the medical profession, nursing professions and professions allied to medicine was subsequently incorporated into the read codes. The read codes are Crown copyright and are structured for use in computerised clinical information systems. The clinical professions have formally supported the adoption of the read codes as the underlying thesaurus for all NHS clinical information systems.A scoping project to extend this thesaurus into the personal social services arena has commenced. The scoping project has the support of the social services inspectorate of the Department of Health and the Association of Directors of Social Services. This initiative supports the care in the community programme and in the broader context of inter-agency teamwork, for example between social and health services, has shown that there are substantial areas in which there is comparable need to be able to share the use of terms, and feel secure that they are appropriately understood.