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Access data on the Personal Demographics Service

The process and requirements for accessing data from the Personal Demographics Service (PDS)

You must describe the purpose and use case for which you are accessing Personal Demographic data so that we can check you:

  • have a legal basis to access PDS data as an organisation
  • use an appropriate PDS access method
  • use a secure network connection

For the PDS FHIR API you describe your use case as part of digital onboarding.

More APIs are moving to digital onboarding but currently for all other PDS access methods you need to demonstrate your purpose and use case by completing a PDS Access Request form.

PDS access methods

PDS is the national electronic database of NHS patient demographic data, such as name, address, date of birth and NHS number. It supports quick and accurate identification of a patient, contact and communication with a patient, and linkage of data and records across care settings and information systems.

The main purpose of the PDS is to support direct care, although data can also be supplied for secondary uses.

PDS access methods are:


This API is the newest and simplest way to integrate healthcare software with PDS. It follows the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard. It is available on the internet, although you do need a secure network connection to use it with smartcards. This API uses digital onboarding, through which you must demonstrate you have a valid use case to access PDS data.

For more details, see Personal Demographics Service - FHIR API.


The original way to integrate healthcare software with PDS. It requires a secure network connection and smartcards, and has a fairly long onboarding process.

For more details, see Personal Demographics Service - HL7 V3 API.

PDS SMSP API (deprecated)

The PDS Spine Mini Service Provider (SMSP) API is a simple PDS trace API which returns exact matches only - updates are not allowed. It requires a secure network connection but does not require smartcards. It had a simpler integration and onboarding process than the HL7 V3 API.

This API was deprecated effective 14 October 2021 with the intention to retire it on 31st January 2024.

If you are migrating an existing product from the PDS SMSP API to the PDS FHIR API, your existing PDS Access Request will be valid if the use case is identical.

For more details, see, Personal Demographics Service - SMSP API

Summary Care Record Application (SCRa)

Provides online real time access and update capability through a web portal application. It requires a secure network connection and smartcards.

PDS MESH - formerly known as Master Patient Trace (MPT)

PDS MESH (formerly known as MPT) provides a PDS batch trace capability via the MESH UI. It's available to registered users through a web portal using either an HSCN connection or via the internet. MPT requires no software installation and is designed for non-technical users.

Demographics Batch Service

The Demographics Batch Service (DBS) is an offline service that provides a simple PDS batch trace capability with exact matches only being returned. It requires a secure network connection and installation of DBS software locally.

Data Access Tracing Service (DATS)

Provides a PDS batch trace capability via the Master Person Service (MPS). Available to registered users through a web portal without the need for a smartcard or secure connection. 

DATS is not currently available to new customers - for more details, contact [email protected].

National Back Office (NBO) Tracing Service

The NBO Tracing Service provides a range of different tracing services operating under specific legislation for NHS and non-NHS organisations. Requires secure email capability for the exchange of data.

Secure network connections

The different types of secure network connection are:

  • Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) - provides a reliable, efficient and flexible way for health and care organisations to access and exchange electronic information
  • Public Services Network (PSN) - the government’s high-performance network, which helps public sector organisations work together, reduce duplication and share resources

What you need to tell us

When applying for PDS access you need to provide:

  • your purpose, use case and benefits for accessing PDS data

  • the PDS access methods you need - we can provide advice on which might best suit your use case

  • your required dataset, noting that for some access methods there is a standard data set delivered by a trace response

We remind you of your obligations, which are:

We might refer your request to our NHS Digital Information Governance, legal teams, or the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD) for consideration, especially if it is a novel request, or appears to be for analytics purposes.

Once we approve your request, we pass it to the appropriate team within NHS Digital who manage the technical assurance and operational access requirements for your chosen access methods.

How to demonstrate your purpose and use case to access PDS data

Last edited: 15 February 2023 3:47 pm