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NHS Number for Secondary Care

This information standard sets out the scope and use of the NHS Number, which is the unique identifier for a patient within the NHS in England and Wales. There is an overarching standard, supplemented by two use cases for how the standard should be used in general practice and secondary care

About this standard

NHS Digital
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Active standards are stable, maintained and have been assured or endorsed for use by qualified bodies.

Standards in development are APIs or API standards in alpha or beta, meaning they are available for use but are still in progress and may change.

Deprecated standards are older versions of a standard which are being phased out.

Retired standards are not being maintained and should not be used.

Standard type
  • Data definitions and terminologies
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Record standards define what information to collect and how to format it, for example when registering a new patient.

Data definitions and terminologies define the format of individual data items so they can be consistently represented, for example dates or medication names. Reference sets and controlled lists are also included.

Technical standards and specifications specify how to make information available technically including how the data is structured and transported.

Information codes of practice are legal or best practice guidelines on how information should be handled.

Contact details

Link to standard

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Topics and care settings

  • Appointment / scheduling
  • Referrals
  • Access to records
  • Continuity of care (ToC)
  • Demographics
  • Key care information
  • Patient communication
Care setting
  • Community health
  • Hospital
  • Maternity
  • Mental health
  • Patient
  • Urgent and Emergency Care

Dependencies and related standards


No known dependencies

Related standards
  • ISB 0086 Information Governance Toolkit Standard
  • ISB 1504 Common User Interface - NHS Number Input and Display
  • ISB 1505 Common User Interface - Patient Banner

Assurance and endorsements

Reference code for standards issued as requirements in England
Quality assurance

This standard has been approved by the Information Standards Board (legacy) and published as an information standard notice (ISN).


Not applicable

Page last updated: 22 November 2022