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National Back Office Tracing Service

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) National Back Office (NBO) provide a Tracing Service under specific legislation to a range of NHS and non-NHS bodies.

Each service has specific acceptance criteria that must be met before NBO will accept the trace request.

A review to assess the appropriateness, effectiveness and operational efficiency of tracing services carried out by NHS Digital through the NBO was undertaken during 2015 and 2016. The NBO Tracing Service review was published in November 2017.

COVID-19 impact on services

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the delivery of the NBO tracing service. Regretfully, this means that the following services have been suspended until further notice:  

  • charity letter forwarding
  • death registration enquiries 

At present, we are unfortunately unable to provide reassurance that the service will be reinstated. Despite COVID restrictions ending, the pandemic has had significant impact on the workload of the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) National Back Office (NBO) and meeting new demands is considerably stretching available resource. Therefore, the provision of some tracing services to approved organisations is under review. We are unable to provide a timeline for completion of the review, but the website will be updated in due course.

The primary role of NBO is that of a national data quality service. It is responsible for the management of NHS numbers and PDS records and the investigation and resolution of data quality incidents on PDS demographic records.

The remainder of our tracing service remains operational at this time, although this is subject to change should our service delivery capability change.

Our tracing services


We provide information to aid criminal investigations (as determined by NHS Digital Information Governance and Caldicott Guardians).

National Crime Agency

We provide information to aid criminal investigations, where the sought person is subject to a European Arrest Warrant.

Home Office tracing service

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Digital to process information requests for the purposes of tracing immigration offenders was suspended in May 2018 and fully withdrawn on 9 November 2018.

The Home Office can still request non-medical information to locate an individual where this is in the interests of safeguarding an individual and necessary to protect a person's welfare. Any such request would be considered by NHS Digital’s Welfare Assessment Panel.

As at 31 March 2021, NHS Digital has not released any information to the Home Office on these grounds since the MOU was suspended in May 2018.

Criminal Case Review Commission

We provide information on individuals in relation to a criminal case review.

Law Courts

We provide information as directed by a court order.

Charity Letter Forwarding

This service is provided to trace a person and facilitate the forwarding of letters sent from registered charities on behalf of people in cases of lost contact. Registered charities include:

  • Barnado's - England
  • Barnado's - Ireland
  • British Red Cross
  • Child Migrants Trust
  • Coram (Thomas Coram Society)
  • Father Hudson Society
  • Missing People Charity
  • Salvation Army
  • London Irish Centre

Death registration enquiries

We validate the registration of a person's death, so that an adoptee or birth relative can avoid searching for family members who may have deceased. This service can be requested by:

  • registered charities
  • social services
  • local councils
  • registered adoption agencies
  • registered adoption support services

Find out more about the death registration enquiries service.

Hereditary medical condition

We can trace people to facilitate the sharing of details between primary care providers regarding hereditary genetic conditions, and where the enquirer wishes to pass on information of an existing medical condition. 

This service is restricted to adopted people or birth relatives via the following types of approved representative:

  • registered charities
  • social services
  • local councils
  • registered adoption agencies
  • registered adoption support services

Find out more about the hereditary medical condition service.


Last edited: 29 September 2022 4:31 pm