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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:

  • your legal basis to access PDS data as an organisation
  • PDS access methods
  • secure network connections 
  • access request process

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:


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 which returns exact matches only - updates are 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.

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. 

DATS is not currently available to new customers - for more details contact

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

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.

Briefing document and PDS access request form

To request access to PDS data, first read the briefing document, then complete the access request form.

These are available to download, see Personal Demographic Service access request.

Last edited: 30 June 2021 10:06 am