Specialised Services

35 specialised services are covered by the Specialised Services National Definitions Set (2nd edition).

2nd Edition - December 2002

The definitions were developed through national working groups (one for each service). Many clinicians, hospital managers, finance and information staff and commissioners were directly involved in working group meetings and many more provided comments during the consultation stages. Some of the definitions have been endorsed by the relevant national organisations.

The definitions identify the activity that should be regarded as specialised and therefore subject to collaborative commissioning arrangements. The definitions provide a helpful basis for service reviews and strategic planning and enable commissioners to establish a broad base-line position and make initial comparisons on activity and spend. It should be noted that, currently, many of the definitions have coding gaps and other information problems as well as a lack of agreed standard service currencies; further work is needed in these areas.

Production of the Specialised Services National Definitions Set is an iterative process. Over time new specialised services will be provided by the NHS whilst other services will become more commonplace and cease to be specialised.

Each definition is divided into two sections.

Section A provides descriptions of the various services covered. In most definitions, the existing pattern or model of service provision is described as well as the clinical service. Each definition includes a list of relevant national guidelines, such as DoH or Royal College of Publications, and identifies any national databases containing health outcomes information. Section A also includes sections on finance and information, examines the best way of identifying the relevant activity in information systems and acknowledges any coding gaps or difficulties. Most of the definitions include a recommended standard currency for the service (eg. banded bed days).

Section B includes specific issues considered to be important by the working group concerned. The views expressed in Section B are those of the particular working group and do not necessarily represent opinion within the DoH or the NHS. Resolving these issues is not within the remit of the definitions project.

It should be noted that the definitions are not service specifications nor do they prescribe service models or set service standards. Where national standards for a service already exist these may be referred to in the definition but specific decisions regarding the planning and procurement of a specialised service are matters for NHS commissioners themselves to address. Inclusion of a treatment or intervention in a definition should not be taken to mean that there is established evidence of clinical or cost effectiveness.

The Specialised Services National Definition Set (3rd edition) can be viewed here.


Each definition can be accessed via the links on this page.

This page was last updated on 14 April 2011.