Your NHS number is unique to you and is used to help healthcare staff, including doctors, hospital and community staff, match you to your health records. As part of a major national campaign, NHS Tower Hamlets is working to ensure everyone – members of the public and healthcare staff alike – are familiar with and use the NHS number every time there is correspondence between the two.
Each NHS number is a unique 10-digit number which is printed on your NHS medical card. NHS patients do not need to know their NHS Number to receive NHS care. However, if you do know your NHS number or can show your medical card when you use an NHS service, this can help those treating you to find your records 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.
As an added safety measure, it is also helpful for you to check correspondence you receive to make sure NHS services are using the right NHS number for you. Your NHS number is different from your National Insurance (NI) number, which is issued for tax and pensions.
How to find your NHS number
You should find your NHS number on your medical card or recent correspondence from the NHS. If not, you should contact your GP practice to request it. A letter will then be sent back notifying you of your NHS number.
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 once you have been registered. For information on how to register with a GP, see our Find-a-doc service.
If you have recently had a baby, it will have been given an NHS number soon after birth. If your baby was born at home, you will receive an NHS number when you register your baby's birth.
Your health records are confidential
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 NHS Tower Hamlets and we are committed to complying 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, your name, date of birth, and 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 contact the NHS Tower Hamlets information governance team at firstname.lastname@example.org.