DAPB approves NHS Digital’s latest pathology information standards

The Data Alliance Partnership Board (DAPB) has given approval to NHS Digital’s new set of pathology information standards.

According to NHS Digital, this is a ‘positive step’ for the future of pathology and contributes to the ‘overall objective’ of improving patient care.

It’s hoped the new standards will ‘enable clinicians to access pathology tests and results’ from across health and care, thereby ‘receiving the right information at the right time and right place’, to support clinical decision making and improve patient safety.

NHSX had commissioned its sister organisation to ‘define information standards aligned with clinical, commissioning and patient needs’ so that pathology tests and results could be shared easily and safely across care settings and organisational boundaries.

The three ‘interrelated specifications’ were identified ‘based on relevant component parts of international standards’.

As per NHS Digital, these are:

  • Unified Test List (UTL) – a national catalogue of pathology test requests and results to replace the pathology Bounded Code List (PBCL), based on SNOMED CT
  • Units of Measure (UoM) – an unambiguous representation of commonly used units, aligned with the UTL, based on Unified Code for Units of Measure (UCUM)
  • Pathology Message Specification – for interoperable data exchange of pathology information, based on Health Level 7 (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).

‘As an information standard’, NHS Digital says, they ‘enable the future communication and exchange of tests, results, quantities, and units used in the Pathology domain across the NHS’.

The full standard can be used by a range of professionals and providers across healthcare, including GPs and GP systems, labs, secondary care and some social care, LIMS, Order Comms, pathology middleware, and clinical research.

Dr Michael Osborn BSC MBBS MRCS FRCPath, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, as well as Consultant Histopathologist for North West London Pathology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I’d like to thank the Pathology team at NHS Digital for their excellent work, which has culminated in the approval of the pathology information standards. This is an important step towards the development of a standardised universal test list for pathology services which will benefit patients care and contribute to the promotion of pathology.”

Gill Foley, Data and Clinical Content Standards Lead for NHSX, added: “It’s great to see the pathology standards have been approved by the Data Alliance Partnership Board. This standard provides the much-needed foundation for sharing pathology tests and results nationwide.”

The DAPB4017: Pathology Test and Results Standard – an information standard to form the basis of sharing pathology test requests and results for all of England – can be viewed here.

While, further information on pathology and diagnostics information standards can be found via NHS Digital’s dedicated space.

It’s been a busy few months for NHS Digital, as the organisation has also seen its Terminology Server go live, began piloting an Acute Data Alignment Programme with the private sector, released a new Data Uses Register, and committed to new workforce diversity targets across the summer.

Elsewhere, in the world of digital pathology developments, recent news includes a new AI tool being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to help streamline pathology workflows and potentially speed up diagnoses of prostate cancer.

While, a pathology network in the UK, called The South 4 Pathology Partnership – which encompasses labs at trusts in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire, and Swindon – also made headlines for selecting the CliniSys WinPath Enterprise laboratory information management system (LIMS) to support its joined-up working and construct a platform for innovation.