Education And Debate

Use of Read codes in development of a standard data set

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 29 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:313
  1. N Smith, research fellowa,
  2. A Wilson, lecturer in primary care developmenta,
  3. T Weekes, social statisticianb
  1. aCentre for Research in Primary Care, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9LN
  2. bWakefield Healthcare, White Rose House, Wakefield WF1 1LT
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Smith.
  • Accepted 24 March 1995

General practice has a wealth of data that could be used for purposes such as assessing health needs, planning, and audit. If this potential is to be realised appropriate data must be easily accessible and of high quality. This article describes the experience of an information project team in developing and coding a standard data set, with the aim of meeting the needs of commissioners, public health, and general practitioners. The Read coding classification seemed the logical choice for the standard data set because Read codes are the basis of a standard classification of general practice data. However, the coding structure has several weaknesses that were difficult to resolve, and the standard data set had to be changed to match available codes. This paper may prove helpful to similar project teams attempting to develop and use a standard data set.

General practice is potentially a rich source of computerised information as over 80% of practices have computers*REF 1* and 99% of the population are registered with a general practitioner. Although systems have been developed to assist clinical management, analysis of practice held information could highlight areas of clinical need. Resources could then be directed to these areas to restore the principle of equity in the NHS, which has recently been eroded.*REF 2*

As a way of maximising the potential of computers in general practice, the Joint Computing Group of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the General Medical Services Committee recommended the Read codes for the standard classification of general practice data.*REF 3* Although it did not fulfil all the criteria set by the group, the Read clinical coding classification (now known as Read 1) was most suitable as it allows access to a thesaurus of medical terms expressed in language suitable for general practitioners that is based on …

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