Demystifying the Role of Clinical Coding: Insights From an Insider

It’s intriguing how many people, both within and outside of the NHS, perceive clinical coding as merely an administrative or data entry job. Only after spending sufficient time in the role do you come to appreciate its deeper significance. For those considering a career change or stepping into this industry, here are some things I wished I knew before I ventured into clinical coding.

The Value of Clinical Coding in NHS Finance & Healthcare Planning

Before the reintroduction of block contracts due to the pandemic, the main source of finance for the NHS was through payments by results (PbR). This meant that the codes you selected would directly influence the HRG & tariff mapping for the NHS. NHS finance personnel would often say that the most important people within the trust aren’t just the healthcare workers, but also the clinical coders. Even with the changes brought about by the pandemic, coding still plays a critical role in secondary uses services (SUS) data and healthcare planning.

Know Your Worth and Don’t Hesitate to Move Around

The number of coding positions available, ranging from a band 2 to a band 6, and the pay disparity between these positions is astonishing. While our role is vital to the NHS, this may not always be reflected in our pay. Neighbouring trusts often have different pay scales and training programmes. Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities both inside and outside the NHS to ensure that you’re compensated appropriately for your work.

You’ll Learn Something New Everyday

Regardless of how experienced you are, there’s always something new to learn in coding. Just when you think you’ve mastered it all, a coding standard changes, a new code is introduced, or sequencing becomes flexible. It keeps you on your toes, always learning, and always humble.

Proving Yourself is a Constant Process

There’s a common phrase I’ve heard: “Just because you’re ACC qualified doesn’t mean you’re a good coder”. While there are some ACC qualified coders who aren’t up to the mark, they are in the minority. The ACC qualification is an industry-recognized benchmark, a testament to years of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice. It’s essential to not let a few outliers overshadow the value of this certification.

Not Everyone Will Understand What You Do

If you’ve ever tried explaining your job at a social gathering, you’ve probably been met with blank expressions. After trying to delve into the details and still seeing the same blank look, I’ve found it’s easier to just tell people to ‘Google it’. More often than not, they come back impressed.

In conclusion, clinical coding is a multi-faceted, valuable, and ever-evolving field that offers ample opportunities for growth and learning. For those considering a career in this field, it’s essential to know its worth, keep learning, and not shy away from exploring new opportunities. Remember, the work you do has a significant impact on healthcare planning and finance, and that’s something to be proud of.

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