This Safer Practice Notice advises all NHS organisations to use the NHS Number as the national identifier for all patients.
Reports to the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) about incidents arising from reliance on local hospital numbering systems demonstrate that there is real danger to patients of serious harm or death.
Between June 2006 and August 2008, the NRLS received over 1,300 reports of incidents resulting from confusion and errors about patients’ identifying numbers. Many involved duplication in local numbering systems, for example, two patients having the same number, or one patient having more than one number. No deaths or cases of serious harm were reported, but healthcare staff believed that it was causing significant risk to patient safety.
All NHS organisations should:
- Use the NHS Number as the national patient identifier; OR the NHS Number as the national patient identifier in conjunction with a local hospital numbering system.
- Use the NHS Number in/on all correspondence, notes, patient wristbands and patient care.
- Put processes in place to ensure that patients can know their own NHS Number and are encouraged to make a note of it.
- Primary care organisations should inform patients about their NHS Number in writing whenever they register as a new patient.