UK renal units started using computerised electronic patient records (EPRs) in the 1960s. Every adult renal unit in the UK now has a well-developed EPR system provided by a variety of third party software suppliers.

These EPRs were deployed before standards had been developed. Many of these systems were built with individual schemes for coding, communication, naming conventions, definitions, error trapping and validation. As a result some cannot support modern and now often mandatory processes for security, patient identification, clinical coding (diagnoses and procedures) or the use of granular hierarchical schemes that allow data to be grouped automatically.

Few current systems can store the metadata which are required to interpret data correctly (e.g. assay method and reference range). It is also impossible to transfer records electronically between renal units or other specialities when a patient changes address or status. In some cases word of mouth and local knowledge are required to interpret the data and operate the systems.

In recognition that better use could be made of existing knowledge, collaborations, patient involvement and new information technologies, the UK Renal Data Collaboration was formed at a meeting at The Royal Infirmary Edinburgh on 29 Nov 2012.