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Access data on the Personal Demographics Service

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

The PDS access request process covers:

  • the legal basis for organisations accessing PDS data
  • PDS access methods
  • secure network connections 
  • access request process

The legal basis for organisations accessing PDS data

NHS Digital can only release data to other organisations, either public or private, where there is a legal basis to do so. This legal basis is determined by the purpose for which the data is required. If the purpose is for the delivery of care to patients by care providers, for example, then there is a clear legal basis.

For any purpose other than direct care, the legal basis must be established by reference to the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

The legal basis is primarily concerned with requests for tracing access to the PDS that is for direct care in organisations that already have a service relationship with an individual, and hold identifying information about them that they wish to validate or update.  Requests for other purposes, with different legal bases, will require detailed scrutiny.

PDS access methods

The 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 may also be supplied for secondary uses.

The PDS access methods are:


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.


The PDS Spine Mini Service Provider is a simple PDS trace API with exact matches only being returned and updates not allowed. It requires a secure network connection but does not require smartcards. It has a simpler integration and onboarding process than the HL7 V3 API.

For more detail see, Personal Demographics Service - SMSP API


This API is the 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.

It is a work in progress. For more details see Personal Demographics Service - FHIR 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.

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.

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

Access request process

Organisations applying for access to PDS data will need to provide:

  • the purpose, use case and benefits for accessing PDS data
  • PDS access method(s) needed, about which advice can be provided
  • the required dataset, noting that for some access methods there is a standard data set delivered by a trace response

Requesting organisations are reminded of the following obligations:

Requests may be referred to NHS Digital IG and/or legal teams, and the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD) for consideration, especially if the application is in any way novel, or appears to be for analytics purposes.

Once a request has been approved and communicated with the requesting organisation, it will be passed to the appropriate area within NHS Digital which will then manage the technical assurance and operational access requirements for the chosen access method(s).

A briefing document is available with more detailed information

To request a copy, send an email to, with 'PDS Access Request - ORGANISATION NAME' in the subject line. Ideally, also give an overview of the purpose for accessing the PDS.

Last edited: 15 February 2021 10:23 am