The history of the Read Codes: the inaugural James Read Memorial Lecture 2011

Inform Prim Care. 2011;19(3):173-82. doi: 10.14236/jhi.v19i3.811.


General practitioner (GP) computing has its origins in the 1970s when the benefits of clinical coding and prescribing were demonstrated. During the early 1980s Dr James Read, working with Abies Informatics Ltd, developed the eponymous Read Codes, which were broader and more comprehensive than other schemes, yet intuitive and easy to use. In 1988 a joint working party of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA) recommended that the Read Codes be adopted nationally. The Read Codes have been used by almost all GPs in the UK since the mid-1990s. Many developments in general practice, including GP fundholding (where GPs held the budgets to commission elective care for their patients), the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF - pay for performance for improving chronic disease management) and GP commissioning (the current NHS reform in which primary care leads commissioning of services for their patients) would have been impossible without all GPs using a common clinical coding scheme. Systematized Nomenclature For Medicine - Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) is a merger of the Read Codes with SNOMED RT - the original SNOMED reference terminology developed by the American College of Pathologists.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Lecture

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Coding / history*
  • Clinical Coding / organization & administration
  • General Practitioners*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Information Systems / history
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / history
  • Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine
  • Vocabulary, Controlled / history*