Your NHS Number
If you have an old medical card, it will have an old-style NHS Number made up of both letters and numbers. This was replaced, for all patients, by a new NHS Number made up entirely of numbers. Each NHS Number is a unique 10-digit number.
Anyone born in England or Wales who has registered with a GP surgery will have their own unique NHS Number.
Your NHS Number is unique to you and is the only National Unique Patient Identifier used to help healthcare staff, including doctors and hospital staff, match you to your health records.
You will be given your NHS Number in writing, when you register with a GP. Your NHS Number helps healthcare staff to find your health records. Each NHS Number is made up of 10 digits shown in a 3-3-4 format (e.g. 111-111-1111).
Your NHS Number is different from your National Insurance (NI) number, which is issued for tax and pensions purposes.
'Find it' - how you can find your NHS Number
If you are registered with a GP surgery but do not know your NHS Number, to 'find it' you can contact your GP surgery to ask for details of your NHS Number to be provided to you - to protect your privacy you may be asked for some identification (for instance, your passport or driving licence).
If you aren't currently registered with a GP, your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) will be able to help and provide you with details of how to register. Ask for the department dealing with 'patient GP registrations'. To find out the telephone number for your nearest PCT visit the NHS Choices website - select 'Find your local Primary Care Trust' and enter your postcode. Alternatively, you can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
If you have never registered with a GP practice, you will not have an NHS Number. When you register with a local GP practice, you will be given an NHS Number as part of registration.
'Use it' - when to use your NHS Number
Your NHS Number is unique to you. Using your NHS Number to identify you correctly is an important step towards improving the safety of your healthcare.
It also helps to reduce the creation of multiple records for a patient. Multiple records can cause a patient's medical history to be held across many files, making it more difficult for hospital staff to access patients' history efficiently.
If you know your NHS Number please 'use it' - make a note of it and take it with you when you visit your GP or hospital. By doing this, you can help healthcare staff find your records more easily and share them safely with others who are caring for you.
'Share it' - how can patients help?
The NHS Number is important because it is the way the NHS identifies you when it cares for you. NHS patients do not need to know their NHS Number to receive NHS care. However, as a patient, it is helpful if you are able to recognise your own NHS Number and check it on things the NHS sends you. Keeping it safe and with you, helps you to help the NHS find your records more easily and share them safely with other healthcare professionals providing you with care.
Consistent use of the NHS Number will lead to a more efficient service, benefitting both patients and those looking after their care.
To download a leaflet containing the above details click here (pdf).
How can I find out my baby's NHS Number?
If your baby was born in a hospital in England or Wales, they should have been given an NHS Number through the hospital system shortly after the birth.
If your baby was born at home, you can 'find out' your baby's NHS Number from the health visitor when they next see you and the baby at your home or at their clinic.
To download a leaflet containing further information which tells you why it is important to use it whenever your baby receives healthcare click here
If you are visiting the country for less than three months
If you are a visitor, you will not be given a permanent NHS Number. More information on overseas visitors using the NHS is available here.
For a Patient Number Frequently Asked Questions Leaflet, click here (pdf).
If you want to find out more about the NHS Number, please refer to the NHS Connecting for Health NHS Number website.
Your health records are confidential and the use of the NHS Number will not change this. Confidentiality of your information is of paramount importance to West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust and we are committed to compliance with the NHS Care Record Guarantee, the NHS Confidentiality Code of Conduct and Data Protection legislation. Under this guidance, all of our staff are required to protect patient information, inform patients of how their information will be used and allow them to decide if and how that information can be shared.
Remember, your NHS Number is unique to you. Using your NHS Number to identify you correctly is an important step towards improving the safety of your healthcare. If you know your NHS Number, or can show your medical card, you can help healthcare staff find your records more easily and share them safely with others who are caring for you.
A few people have expressed confidentiality concerns with the NHS Number, particularly around identity fraud. Patients should be reassured that it is not possible for identity fraud to occur using the NHS Number. The following points explain this:-
Personal patient details are held on a national computerised database - known as the Spine - and access to the tools to view this information is subject to stringent security procedures.
Security is of the highest importance and there is a comprehensive security policy and access controls which govern its use. Use without a legitimate reason constitutes a breach of the NHS Code of Practice for Confidentiality.
Staff will never use your NHS Number as the only way to identify you. Other information will also be used, for example, name, date of birth, address.
As an added safety measure, you can start checking the things the NHS sends you to make sure they have the right NHS Number
To learn more about how your information is used, please speak to the health professionals concerned with your care or email the Information Governance Team at firstname.lastname@example.org