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CP-IS NHS number matching information

February 2019: guidance for local authorities on matching local records of children on a Child Protection Plan, Looked After Child or Unborn Child Protection Plan with the correct NHS Number in the NHS system. 

Local authorities must match local records before going live with CP-IS

It is important that local authorities aim to match 100% of local records (within scope of CP-IS) to valid NHS Numbers, and that these numbers are for the correct person. 

Why NHS number matching is important

The NHS Number is the unique identifier for every patient within the NHS system. When each local authority goes live with CP-IS or needs to add a new child to the service, it will carry out an NHS Number matching process to assign each child’s record (on a Child Protection Plan, Looked After Child or Unborn Child Protection (UCPP). Plan with the correct NHS Number (See below for more information on UCPPs) to enable data to be shared between social care and health settings.  If the child is not matched to the correct NHS Number on the NHS Spine this could result in:

  • the vulnerable child known to social care not having their plan details uploaded to the NHS Spine, preventing them being flagged and their details being made available to healthcare staff when they present at live unscheduled healthcare settings
  • a child being wrongly identified in healthcare settings as being known to social services and being on a child protection plan, or a looked after child

Local authorities are not authorised to go live with CP-IS until at least 95% of records are matched to NHS Numbers, and it is important to sustain high levels of compliance post go live to ensure that all children within scope of the CP-IS service are effectively uploaded to the NHS Spine and searchable in unscheduled care settings.

Handling of Unborn Child's Protection Plan (UCPP)

You should ensure that unborn children requiring a care protection plan have a unique record which is searchable via the mother’s record (linked but not part of the same record).  When this information is uploaded to CP-IS the mother’s credentials will be used to allocate the UCP against her NHS number.

Once the child is born, the child’s unique NHS Number should be updated within the child’s record including the relevant information of the protection plan(s) and demographic information (no changes to mother’s information).

You should refer to your social care system supplier training guide for specific details of how UCPPs are managed within the system you use.

Best practice for obtaining NHS Numbers

To ensure that all children who are subject to child protection plans are further protected by the sharing of information via CP-IS, we would like to reiterate some best practice regarding how NHS numbers are obtained by local authorities. There are options available to you and your health partners to ensure that the correct NHS Number is used for a child. This includes:

  • social care system suppliers offer NHS Number matching products which local authorities can have embedded with the social care system to load patient identifiable data for matching NHS Numbers - this runs on a batch service overnight
  • work with a local health partner to obtain Person demographics Service (PDS) matched NHS numbers - it is important that health partners have processes in place to validate accuracy of the data before they provide it to the Local Authority, to ensure no incorrect NHS numbers are provided and as a result the wrong children uploaded
  • ensure that the naming convention for any child on a Child Protection Plan reflects the first name and family name as presented on the legal Child Protection Order or Plan documentation - this information should be used consistently through all multi-agency safeguarding meetings, to avoid any confusion and prevent informal names or aliases being uploaded to CP-IS which will result in a mismatch and could also result in a failed upload of the data
  • work collaboratively between health and social care colleagues or as part of a multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) to ensure that NHS Number matching is an integral part of child case conferences and case management
  • use the NHS Number that is on formal correspondence from the NHS – such as a GP or hospital letter
  • develop a relationship with local and regional safeguarding teams across your local acute trusts, including the Looked After Child named nurse

Please note that local authorities are strongly advised to have an associated service specification and quality assurance process since, as data controller, you retain accountability for accuracy of uploading data onto CP-IS.

When CP-IS records are subsequently uploaded to the NHS Spine, some additional checks and validation are applied (see below), however, each local authority has the responsibility to ensure that the NHS number is correct before these checks are applied.

Demographics Batch Service API

Submit a file of patient information to the Spine for tracing against the Personal Demographics Service (PDS).

Demographics Batch Service API

All enquiries should be directed to [email protected].

This replaces previous services, now decommissioned, Demographics Batch Service Bureau and Data Access Tracing Service (DATS).

Data quality guidelines for client data within social care systems

Use the following best practice guidelines for recording client data within your local social care systems to ensure a match with the PDS on the national Spine, along with any specific advice provided by the supplier of your social care system. Use the field names and associate data quality requirements below.

NHS number

The NHS number:

  • must have a value of 10 digits, otherwise the file will be rejected/record will not process
  • must not include any punctuation or spaces within this field

Take particular care in transcribing the final digits of the NHS Number, as consecutive NHS Numbers are likely to have the same date of birth.

Date of birth

The date of birth:

  • must be in the format YYYYMMDD
  • must not include any punctuation or spaces within this field

Family name (surname)

Family name:

  • must be a valid family name as it appears on formal documentation such as birth certificate, child protection order, passport, legal documentation
  • must include the family name only (no forenames, or additional text)
  • must not include any punctuation or spaces within this field, except in the instance of using ', such as in O’Neill, O’Connor

If you are unsure whether it is the mother or father’s family name being used please try to verify this. Do not include both family names if you are unsure which is correct.

Try to ensure correct spelling by referring to documentation.

First forename(s)/(First given name(s))

This must be a valid forename(s) as it appears on formal documentation such as birth certificate, child protection order, passport, legal documentation

If your system only has one field for forename, place all forenames in this field, ensuring they are in the correct order stated on formal documentation.

Use the full, formal name (not the known/nickname) and try to ensure correct spelling by referring to documentation.

Please be aware that records of new babies on the NHS Spine may not contain the forenames until the baby is registered at the GP (so for up to 6 weeks following the date of birth you may receive rejections against Spine data).


Use this field within your social care system to record the preferred name, abbreviated name, nickname or alias. This should always be used rather than amending the child’s formal first name.

Variations in fields

There may be some variations in fields depending on your system supplier, so contact them if you need more specific guidance.

Validation criteria

To ensure that your CP-IS records pass our validation checks and are uploaded correctly to the NHS Spine, you should aim to match all four fields of data as fully as possible, namely:

  • NHS Number must match 100%, otherwise the record will be rejected
  • date of birth must match 100%, otherwise the record will be rejected
  • either the forename or family name must match 100%

Some minor variation is permissible in spelling for either the forename or family name (as long as the other name has already matched 100%). If neither forename or family name matches 100%, the record will be rejected.

Because of this, you should aim to get 100% accuracy for both the first forename and family name wherever possible. Where your social care system accepts multiple names in the "Forename" field this is likely to prevent a 100% match (because PDS handles these as separate fields), and, therefore, a 100% match on the family name becomes even more critical to prevent a record being rejected.

The importance of checking error logs

It is important that any rejections from NHS Spine upload are reviewed regularly by all local authorities, and the correct data assigned to the child to ensure that they are subsequently uploaded successfully and are accessible as part of the CP-IS service. 

Failure to process rejected records result in unprotected children

Failure to process rejected records means that this child is not protected by the service and introduces the risk of a child presenting for care and clinicians not having access to the CP-IS information relating to the child. 

Your IT team can identify and monitor these error logs for you, and/or your system supplier should be able to able to provide the error code associated with an individual record which is failing to validate, as the exact process will vary dependent on which social care system you use. Refer to your social care supplier CP-IS implementation guidance for more details of these error codes.

Determining whether NHS Spine or local data is correct, and rectifying errors

If you believe the data on the NHS Spine is incorrect, or you find anomalies within the data, you will need to carry out further verification checks to determine whether the data held in the social care system or the NHS Spine is correct. This could include: 

  • reviewing official case record documentation or Child Protection Order to confirm the correct data (forename, family name and date of birth)
  • contacting the child or guardian to confirm the correct data (forename, family name and date of birth)
  • liaising with a local health partner to verify the correct data (forename, family name and date of birth)
  • rechecking details using an NHS Number Loader service (where you have access to this functionality)
  • using reasonable judgement as to which might be the most up to date record in the instance where ‘Baby Smith’ or ‘Child of Mrs Smith’ sits alongside a more comprehensive record, for example ‘Susan Smith'

You should work in collaboration with the relevant health provider to come to a shared view about the record, agree what data amendments are needed and ensure these are actioned and maintained in line with formal documentation. 

Managing records where the surname has changed

In some cases, you may have records where the child has recently changed surname to the mother’s surname (instead of the father’s surname). These records should be managed by referring to legal documentation to verify the correct current name of the child. The parent/guardian must provide legal documentation to support a change in data.

Managing asylum seeker records where date of birth is uncertain

In some cases, you may have records where the child is an asylum seeker and it has been difficult to ascertain date of birth. These records should be managed by referring to legal documentation to verify the correct current date of birth of the child. If the child or parent is unable to provide the legal documentation you should contact the Home Office to obtain or verify this.

Managing records of transgender children

The current Spine validation does not check against gender. However, should this additional validation be required in future, local authorities are advised to refer to legal documentation to verify the correct current gender and name of the child.

Further help

For further support with NHS Number matching you can contact:

  • your Regional Implementation Manager (if you have recently gone live with CP-IS)
  • CP-IS mailbox: [email protected]

If you identify a live service issue which relates to NHS Numbers, you should report this via the NHS Digital National Service Desk:

Service Desk telephone: 0300 3 035 035

Service Desk email: [email protected]

Your continuing commitment to data quality

Thank you for your continuing commitment to data quality. This enables CP-IS to provide electronic information sharing between social care and the NHS to safeguard our most vulnerable children.

Last edited: 20 September 2022 3:08 pm