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Use of Read codes in diabetes management in a south London primary care group: implications for establishing disease registers

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 22 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1130
  1. Jeremy Gray, director1 (Jeremy{at},
  2. Douglas Orr, researcher1,
  3. Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care2
  1. 1 Battersea Research Group, Bolingbroke Hospital, London SW11 6HN
  2. 2 Primary Care Research Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London, London WC1H 9QU
  1. Correspondence to: J Gray
  • Accepted 10 March 2003


Objective To establish current practice in the use of Read codes for diabetes.

Design Cross sectional study.

Setting 17 practices in the Battersea primary care group in southwest London.

Data sources Computerised medical records.

Main outcome measures Number of codes in use in all practices; variation in the use of codes between practices; and prevalence of Read code use in diabetic patients.

Results At least 9 separate Read code groupings and 25 individual diabetes codes were in use in the 17 general practices. Only one Read code (C10, diabetes mellitus) and its subcodes was being used in all 17 practices, but its use varied from 14% to 98% of patients with diabetes. The use of other key Read codes for monitoring the care of patients with diabetes also varied widely between practices; for example, < 20% of practices used the code for the location of care. Less than half of patients (45%) with diabetes had their type of diabetes coded, and even fewer (21%) had measures such as the examination of the retina coded.

Conclusions The use of Read codes for diabetes needs to be standardised and coding levels improved if valid diabetic registers are to be constructed and the quality of care is to be monitored effectively. Until all patients with diabetes have the C10 Read code recorded, clinicians will have to use a wide range of Read codes and prescribing data to ensure that diabetes registers are complete.


  • Funding The Battersea Research Group is funded by the Department of Health. AM holds a national primary care scientist award, also funded by the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Accepted 10 March 2003
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