COVID-19 'Coding' Advice

Things have rapidly evolved from a situation in late 2019, when a previously unknown disease caused by a previously unseen strain of coronavirus suddenly appeared in China, to a full blown pandemic.  Initially the virus was known as ‘2019-nCoV (Wuhan)’ but over a matter of weeks this changed first to ‘2019-nCoV (novel coronavirus)’ and then to ‘SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2)’. The disease caused by the virus is now known as ‘COVID-19’.  This rapid evolution in naming posed major challenges for terminologists, suppliers, users, and those wishing to provide clear guidance.

NHS Digital very swiftly delivered two emergency UK SNOMED CT releases, the last being in early April.  The Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) believes that naming has now stabilised to the point where it is at last possible to provide clear basic advice about COVID-19 related recording.  It is therefore now issuing coding advice sheets, primarily for the use of General Practitioners, for each of the four countries.  The advice has deliberately been limited to a ‘starter set’ of 19 key concepts for quick reference and is not intended to be comprehensive. FCI has also been facilitating discussions to ensure that the same basic set of descriptions will be available in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

We understand that GP system suppliers have taken on the task of updating all English GP systems up to the latest April release.  This should have been completed by TPP and EMIS by the time this advice is published, and should be in process by InPS.  We intend to work with suppliers and others to ensure that these descriptions will very soon be available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which of course have not yet migrated to SNOMED CT.

The Professional Record Standards Body has reviewed all of the COVID-19 related SNOMED CT content now available and provided some useful general advice. 

Dr John Williams, Faculty Chair

FCI is pleased to offer Advice sheets for each of the four countries available for download below.

Guidance for Wales and Northern Ireland will be added to this page once it is available.



Page last updated 04/05/20