Use of NHS Numbers

The NHS Number is the only unique, constant patient identifier in use across all care settings. This means that using the NHS Number helps to share patient information safely, efficiently and accurately particularly across organisational boundaries. This assists each care setting in holding complete patient records, and so reduces clinical risk.

The delivery of patient care is now often shared across a number of NHS and non- NHS clinical or business areas and suppliers. This flow of information and records related to a patient between organisations and social care are effectively linked up by use of the NHS Number. Because each patient’s NHS Number always remains the same it is the most reliable way to identify the correct patient, particularly within electronic systems.

Use of the NHS Number aids organisations to resolve common demographics issues. For example:

  • Individual provides different names - Elizabeth – Betty
  • Patient forename and surname are reversed – Mohammed Ali becomes Ali Mohammed
  • Patient changes their name e.g. a change of marital status
  • Patient names are not unique. Hundreds of different patients named ‘John Smith’.
  • Patients do not always inform the NHS when their demographics change, e.g. change of address, change of name; or they inform one NHS organisation but not others e.g. hospital discharge forms for recently married Mrs Jane Smith who has now moved house sent to Miss Jane Preston at Jane’s previous address
  • Each Date of birth is shared by around 2,000 NHS patients.
  • If you do not know your NHS number please ask at reception