NHS England launches the NHS Number survey for all Trusts

Today NHS England launched a survey on the uptake and use of the NHS Number as the primary patient identifier aimed at Trusts across all services. The survey – the first of its kind – will enable NHS England to create a comprehensive picture by Trusts across England of use of the NHS Number in direct care. The NHS Standard Contract for 2014-15 states that “the provider must use the NHS Number as the primary identifier in all clinical correspondence” and is a key criterion for applications to the Integrated Digital Care Fund.

NHS England has asked Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in acute, ambulance, community and mental health Trusts to complete the survey by 31 July 2014 and plans to have a complete report on progress by September 2014. The findings of the survey will be the catalyst for targeted support aimed at local level to facilitate the widespread adoption of the NHS Number.  The survey is vital to understanding where that support is most needed. The central programme team, regional leads and CCGs will work closely with Trusts to support CIOs to meet their contractual obligation and to track progress across their organisations over the coming months.

“We want to help all Trusts in England, and the populations they serve, to reap the benefits of integrated and safer care as quickly as possible and the use of NHS Number as the primary patient identifier is fundamental in enabling this” said Beverley Bryant, Director of Strategic Systems and Technology. Support in driving the use of NHS Number will be a cross-organisation initiative led through our central programme team but working hand in glove with regional leads, the CCGs and, of course, the Trusts themselves.”

Further information about the NHS Number for NHS staff and patients and the public, can be found  at the NHS Number page on the NHS Digital website.


  1. Liz Morgan says:

    I have tried to find the outcome of the NHS number survey as it looked like it should be available from September 2014 from the article – when will this be available please?

    I would be interested to know if there are any discussions in progress for IT systems to be required to use the NHS number as the primary identifier. It looks like requirements are limited to detailing the NHS number as primary identifier on all clinical correspondence.

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Liz,

      The report NHS Number Survey Report is currently being reviewed and going through the rigorous NHS England Gateway Publication process. We hope to have it released by the end of October.

      As per the NHS standard contract the NHS Number must be used as the primary identifier in all clinical correspondence and all activity must be linked using the NHS Number.

      Kind regards
      NHS England

      • Anonymous says:

        Many thanks – I will await further detail of the survey results which looks to be out now/imminently.

  2. Rebecca Wassall says:

    The is a current problem with primary dental care providers not being able to ‘trace’ nhs numbers for the patients they provide care for. As a primary care dentist who would like to start using nhs numbers for my patients I am interested in possible solutions to this problem.

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      The next phase of the programme we will be focusing on areas of Primary Care. We will be releasing guidance for various care sectors in October on how to trace the NHS Number and accessing Personal Demographics Services at this web site so do please check.

      The NHS Number is printed on;
      NHS prescriptions
      Letters from the GP Practice to the patient
      The patient can seek the number directly from their NHS GP practice.

      If the Dental Practice wants to record the NHS number of all their patients they could ask each patient to bring along a written note of their NHS number to their next appointment and capture the NHS number on their local practice system but if you do use any of these methods to get the NHS Number there is a danger of errors due to mistyping into a system as you will be unable to verify it so please be aware that this is not a route we recommend.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  3. Mary Clark says:

    This has been a problem to enforce particularly with the Ambulance Trusts as they quote that the NPSA alert that states the Ambulance trusts were not icluded in the NHS number project that was originally launched. Any support on this is welcome.

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your comment.

      As part of the NHS Standard contract all NHS Providers must use the NHS Number in all clinical correspondence (electronic and paper). The survey has identified issues with the use of the NHS Number by Ambulance Trusts and is providing targeted support through direct interaction with the National Ambulance Urgent & Emergency Care Group. A representative of one of the Ambulance Trusts is on the NHS Number Programme Board and they have also highlighted specific areas of concern which the NHS Number Programme will address. If you have any specific questions in relation to your Trusts use of the NHS Number please email with specific questions and we will be able to provide the necessary advice, guidance and support.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  4. Trevor Fossey says:

    The use of the NHS # as the unique identifier will facilitate the implementation of the requirements of the Power of Information initiative, which undertakes that ALL providers of health and social care will allow each patient/service user online access to their own records/date. The information from all providers will be better provided to the patient in an integrated manner.

  5. Lisa Murray says:

    I work for a CCG and we deal with local authorities and providers. They do not use NHS Numbers so this causes a problem.

    Also, it is very difficult for CCGs to get any kind of patient information (that is needed, especially for CHC) from H&SC or Public Health now they are based at Local Authorities and this was an oversight that has not yet been rectified with all the NHS changes.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The intention of the NHS Number Programme is to ensure all providers are using the NHS Number as the primary identifier in all clinical correspondence and capturing the NHS Number as early as possible in the care pathway. We are working with all NHS providers to maximise the use of the NHS Number and addressing issues for Local Authorities and other providers. The use of the NHS Number is a contractual obligation for NHS providers as well as a pre-requisite to receiving funding from the Integrated Digital Care Record Fund. Your contract lead should be aware of this and should be actively encouraging the use of the NHS Number by the providers.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  6. Matthew Thomas says:

    Please could the use of NHS Nos be made totally mandatory across all healthcare providers, NHS, private, hospital, high street, including dentists, chiropodaists, opticians etc. This will in time simplify all clinical information communication and test result compatibility. This should apply to all systems and all data, except where there is an agreed need for anonimity, eg, research, publication, teaching etc.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Matthew

      Thank you for your comment.

      The NHS Number Programme has been set up to ensure mechanisms are in place for information to flow smoothly between providers, both electronically and within paper correspondence. The 2014 – 2015 standard contract stipulates that; “Subject to and in accordance with Guidance the Provider must ensure that the Service User Health Record includes the Service User’s verified NHS Number. The Provider must use the NHS Number as the primary identifier in all clinical correspondence (paper or electronic). The Provider must be able to use the NHS Number to identify all Activity relating to a Service User.” The NHS Number Programme will initially focus on NHS providers and then extend this to all providers. We will work with the CCGs to ensure all contracts include a similar provision as the standard NHS contract for use of the NHS Number.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England