NHS Number

NHS Number

The NHS Number is the unique patient identifier in operation in the NHS. It is used to efficiently share patient information across and within organisations.

Example of a 10-digit NHS Number

It is composed of ten digits: e.g. 943 476 5919

Reasons pharmacy teams may use the NHS Number

Safe care of patients relies on the information held by health and care providers being particular to the individual person; use of the NHS number ensure that people can be uniquely identified.

Pharmacy teams use the NHS Number to:

  • efficiently and accurately link patients with records, reducing the risk of confusing two people’s records;
  • receive electronic prescription messages (EPS);
  • identify patients when communicating with other health and social care organisations; and
  • use the Patient Demographics Service (PDS).

Working with the NHS Number

The general principles of the NHS Number standards outlined by HSCIC are:

NHS Number principles Explanation
Find It Find the NHS Number early during the care pathway – ideally on initial contact.
Use It Use it to associate care and treatment to that person’s PMR record. The NHS Number can be used on documents and reports relating to that person.
Share It Share the NHS Number with other organisations where needed; including within paper/electronic documents.


Q. Who has an NHS Number?
A. Almost every patient in England and Wales. The NHS Number is used across England, Wales and the Isle of Man. Since 2002, each person born in these areas has been issued with a number. In addition anyone who has ever been registered at a GP practice in these areas will have an NHS Number.

If you cannot find a person’s NHS Number it is more likely that they have not been identified correctly, rather than because they do not have an NHS Number.

Q. How can I find a patient’s NHS number?
A. Community pharmacy teams can find a patient’s NHS number by looking the patient up on the Personal Demographics Service (PDS); see Finding patient records on the PDS for further information.

Related resources

HSCIC have published pdfs to support NHS Number usage including:

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