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NHS Wales Dental Referral Management System
Your Health Board

About the NHS number

The NHS number was developed to support unique patient identification within the NHS. It is a unique 10-digit number. The first nine digits are the identifier and the tenth is a check digit used to confirm the number’s validity. There is no significance to any of the digits. This style of numbering was introduced in 1996 replacing a variety of previous systems. The NHS number should be displayed and printed in a ‘3 3 4’ format (e.g. 987 654 4321).

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) published a Safer Practice Notice (SPN) for the NHS number in September 2008 which advised all NHS organisations to use the NHS number as the national patient identifier.

The NHS number is now widely used within health and social care organisations and should be present on all patient and service user records, both paper and electronic, as early in the care pathway as possible. It must be used alongside other demographic information to link together the correct records for a particular patient or service user.

The following people have an NHS number:

  • anyone who is, or has ever been, registered with a GP practice in England, Wales or the Isle of Man
  • anyone born in England, Wales or the Isle of Man since October 2002.

Additionally, anyone who has received NHS treatment in England, Wales or the Isle of Man is likely to have an NHS number.

There are very few people without an NHS number. If a health or social care organisation cannot find a person’s NHS number it is probably because they have not been properly identified, not because the person does not have an NHS number.

NHS-number_328x212If you are interested in how to integrate NHS numbers into your dental practice, or want to know more about how we access and integrate data for patient benefit, get in touch and we can provide you with further details, how we integrate GP details into processed referrals.


Safe care or treatment of a person relies on the information held being particular and pertinent to that person. Using the NHS number helps identify the person and reduces the risk of confusing two people’s records.

The NHS number helps to share patient or service user information safely, efficiently and accurately and improves financial flows. As the delivery of care is now often shared across a number of health and social care organisations the effective linking up and flow of information related to a patient or service user becomes ever more important.

Important reasons for general practices to use an NHS number:

  • Accurately links the patient to their record
  • Enables transfer of patient records electronically using GP2GP
  • Enables referrals using the NHS e-Referral Service (the replacement for Choose and Book)
  • Send electronic prescription messages using EPS
  • Identifies patients in all communications with other health and social care providers.

Important reasons for NHS trusts to use an NHS number:

  • Helps create and maintain a complete record for each patient
  • Enables patient information to be shared safely within and across organisational boundaries.
  • Allocating an NHS number to babies helps link their healthcare records for life.

Using the NHS number in social care organisations supports:

  • The accurate identification of service users
  • As the only national unique patient identifier, it helps create a complete record, linking every episode of care across health and social care organisations
  • safe and efficient coordination of social care with healthcare.
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