This data element has been previously defined as "the area of clinical expertise held by the doctor who will perform the elective surgery" and for most public hospitals was derived from a HBCIS reference which maps each doctor to a unit and each unit to a specialty. Therefore the surgical specialty was not referencing the doctor's qualifications in a specific sense, but rather the operational practicality that if a doctor is attached to a certain unit then that is the area of specialty within which they work (and have clinical expertise in).
From 2016-2017, the NMDS data element has been revised to describe the surgical specialties as aligned to the specialties recognised by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons: https://www.surgeons.org/surgical-specialties/
. This specifically expands the data domain to include paediatric surgery as a unique code.
The Healthcare Improvement Unit (HIU) decided that describing the surgical specialty as the specialty area of the unit to which the patient will be assigned upon admission, would be more useful to retain in reporting and evaluating operational service areas, than describing the surgical specialty as the qualification of the treating doctor. It is expected that changing over from the existing description to the new would result in reduced granularity, particularly in the expected homogenisation of paediatric surgery. Queensland will continue to use this data element as the source for reporting to the NMDS data element.