National health service numbers are currently issued and controlled by the national health service central register (NHSCR). At close of business on 5 June 2007 the total number of records held by NHSCR on the central health record inquiry system (CHRIS) was 74,581,472. This included a number of deceased patients (9,166,168), and number of invalid records (355,735). The total of NHS numbers 'in issuance, at that point was therefore 65,059,569.
The in issuance figure includes a further 7,903,001 numbers where the patient entry contains an exit or cancelled flag. There can be a number of reasons for this, such as where patients are known to have left the country on a permanent basis, armed forces personnel, and unregistered, the majority of which will be of notified births that have not yet been registered with a general practitioner.
As part of the Department’s NHS Connecting for Health Agency’s demographics migration programme the personal demographics service (PDS) will replace the following existing NHS demographics services:
the NHS Central Register (CHRIS);
demographic functions of the national health applications and infrastructure services (NHAIS);
the NHS strategic tracing service (NSTS); and
NHS number for babies (NN4B).
Moving to the PDS becoming the single authoritative source of demographics will enable the existing national demographic systems to be shut down, resulting in reduced operational costs.
The PDS is an essential element of the NHS care records service, underpinning the creation of an electronic care record for every registered NHS patient in England. It will serve as a gateway to the clinical record, enabling authorised healthcare professionals to locate quickly the clinical record that is uniquely associated with each demographic record. Unlike the previous services, this single authoritative source of demographics is already accessible throughout the NHS and is integrated fully with the other applications and services delivered as part of the national programme for information technology. It provides more convenience for patients as they need only notify one authorised healthcare organisation of a change of address, and this change will be then available to all healthcare organisations as and when the patient’s records are accessed.
The demographics migration programme is also endeavouring to eliminate use of NHS temporary, and old-format numbers. These peaked in November 2004 at some 273,578 temporary, and 8,474 old-format numbers. By May 2007 nationally these figures had reduced to some 78,997 temporary, and just 30 old-format numbers. The elimination of use of all temporary and old-format numbers within the NHS is on target to be achieved by spring 2008.