Standards and interoperability (IT)

Published on: 18th January 2017 | Updated on: 10th September 2022

The use of  ‘standards’ within the health sector enables people, devices and systems to communicate in a more efficient and electronic manner. The growing use of standards should improve patient care and should also help to improve centralised records as well as enable improved analysis.

Standards can also reduce the need for health and care workers to ‘re-key’ information and for patients to need to repeat themselves about their experiences.

Interoperability refers to systems that interoperate with each other using shared technical standards.

The technical standards used within pharmacies and by pharmacy systems are sometimes developed and defined by a variety of stakeholders. NHS Digital and Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) have had a large role with setting standards using feedback from stakeholders including patients, pharmacy teams and others.

Community Pharmacy England also maintains a List of standards and requirements.

Overview and examples

When standards are implemented most effectively by system suppliers and wider stakeholders then these should not need to be noticed by pharmacy teams using systems. GP practice systems also align with many global clinical codes such as SNOMED CT codes. Pharmacy systems also align with some SNOMED codes and partially because of the use of EPS with aligns with the Dictionary of medicines and devices (dm+d).

Examples of standards:

  • Train tracks: From 1845 the Royal Commission on Railway Gauges supported a standardised train track size so that trains and train tracks could be more frequently built to a shared specified size enabling trains to operate across different areas of the country.
  • EPS: NHS Digital EPS standards enable a GP practice to use their clinical system to send an electronic prescription to the central NHS Spine where it can be downloaded by pharmacies using their patient medication record (PMR) system.
  • Flu notification: Electronic flu vaccination notifications are being sent from pharmacies to GP practices. The notifications are securely transferred from certain systems used within pharmacies to certain GP practice systems automatically.


List of organisations

These include the below listed alphabetically.

Organisation(s) / standards Type Area Further info
Data Alliance Partnership Board Organisation England Oversees the development, and approval of information standards, data collections and data extractions. Formally had been known as Data Coordination Board (DCB) (2017-April 2021) and prior to this it was known as the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI).
Endeavour Health (charity) Organisation England Aims to improve healthcare by enabling the design of, and researching the effectiveness of, new forms of healthcare information technology and healthcare provision with particular emphasis on patients as users of IT.
FHIR Foundation Organisation England Promotes global adoption and implementation of the FHIR® platform standard.
HL7 UK Organisation England/UK/Global Dedicated to providing a framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information.
Informatics Design Authority (IDA) and Informatics Portfolio Management Board (IPMB) Organisation England To provide technical review and support on proposals for data standards.
Information Sharing Gateway (commercial) Info sharing /consent model system England Organisations can sign-up to co-sharing agreements. Aims to ease the administration and risk assessment of information sharing agreements in the public sector. It has been designed to support Information Governance (IG) reporting / flows.
Interoperability Handbook (NHS England and NHS Digital) Guide England Explains the interoperability options you can take and how to procure using interoperability tools and standards. Provides a framework for: (1) Business Justification for investment in contributing towards integrated EHRs; (2) IG templates and guidance; (3) cliniciand and patient engagement; and (4) Open interface.
INTEROPen Group England An action group to accelerate the development of open standards for interoperability in the health and social care sector. Leading organisations and individuals are encouraged to join INTEROPen. Members include NHS Digital, GP system suppliers, and many of the organisations included within this list.
medConfidential Organisation England Campaigns for confidentiality and consent in health and social care – seeking to ensure that every flow of data into, across and out of the NHS and care system is consensual, safe and transparent.
NHS Digital Organisation England Supports the NHS and social care services.
NHSX Organisation England Supports use of digital across the NHS.
Notifications from GP practice systems to pharmacy systems Standards Future

Notifications may in future more frequently be passed from GP to pharmacy systems.

Read more at: Notifications from GP practice systems to pharmacy systems

Open Source Programme (NHS England) Programme England NHS England and NHS Improvement supports the Open Source Programme because it is intended to be about making best practice IT solutions in health and care accessible to all. The programme suggests making the software, or the source code freely available and downloadable from platforms such as GitHub,
openEHR Organisation England This not-for-profit company has a vision of life-long interoperable electronic health records (EHRs); and computing on EHRs to improve the quality of health care and research. Its mission is to promote and support implementation.
Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) Organisation England Works with the public and healthcare professionals to define the standards needed for good care records.

List of standards and technical requirements

Technical requirements, specifications and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), where these are made available can assist system suppliers to align with standards and enable interoperability.

Read more at:

Training opportunities

Further info

Read more at:

If you have queries on this webpage or you require more information please contact

Getting involved: If you work within pharmacy and wish to feed into future standards – by email or via a telecon opportunity then please contact, Community Pharmacy England’s Community Pharmacy IT Lead or with ‘standards’ in the subject title. PRSB may hold future events including some to set out changes to the pharmacy info flows dataset.




Return to the Pharmacy IT hub; List of standards and requirements; or IT a-z index


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