Skip to main content

Personal Demographics Service

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) is the national master database of all NHS patients in England, Wales and the Isle of Man - holding basic patient details such as name, address, date of birth, contact details, registered GP, nominated pharmacy and NHS number.  PDS has a National Back Office for handling data quality.

Help us to improve

Help us to make improvements by giving feedback on the service catalogue.

Tell us what you think.

About this service

A 'context diagram' for PDS, showing who accesses it, via which channels, and what it contains.

Text description

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) holds basic patient demographic details such as name, address, date of birth, contact details, registered GP, nominated pharmacy and NHS number.

How to access PDS as a health and social care worker

  • Health and social care workers can access PDS through a point-of-care application, such as a Patient Administration System (PAS) in a hospital.

How to access PDS as a patient

  • Patients can access their data stored on PDS through a patient-facing application, such as the NHS App or their NHS account

These applications access PDS via system-to-system interfaces, such as the PDS FHIR API or PDS MESH.

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) is the national master database of all NHS patients in England, Wales and the Isle of Man.

It holds basic patient demographic details such as name, address, date of birth, contact details, registered GP and nominated pharmacy, as well as a national unique identifier - the NHS number.

People born in England, Wales or the Isle of Man are registered and issued an NHS number at birth. People moving to those areas are registered when they first interact with an NHS care setting such as a GP or hospital.

It contains over 80 million records, of which over 60 million are for people currently registered with a GP.

Overview of PDS - video 

Click the play button to watch a short video about the service.


Benefits

Benefits of PDS include:
  • health and social care workers can identify patients and link them to their care records - across all care settings - using their NHS number
  • health and social care workers, locally and nationally, can communicate with patients in a number of ways, including by text and email
  • a useful national source of basic patient demographic information for all sorts of uses

Who this service is for

PDS is normally used for direct care. However, there are non-direct care uses - these are supported by appropriate information governance and data sharing arrangements.

PDS does not have a user interface - users must access it indirectly via user-facing applications, namely:

  • point-of-care applications for health and social care workers, such as a Patient Administration System (PAS) in a hospital
  • patient-facing applications for patients, such as the NHS App or the NHS account

These applications access PDS via system-to-system interfaces such as the PDS FHIR API or PDS MESH.

PDS is secure - health and social care workers including patients must be suitably authenticated and authorised to access it. For example, to update a record, health and social care workers must be strongly authenticated with an NHS smartcard or modern alternative available via NHS Care Identity Service 2 (NHS CIS2). PDS keeps a full audit of all record access.


What information is available

Who is included

PDS holds information for:

  • anyone born in England, Wales or the Isle of Man
  • anyone else who has registered for NHS care in England, Wales or the Isle of Man

What information is held for each patient

PDS holds basic non-clinical information about each patient, including:

  • NHS number - a national unique patient identifier
  • demographic data - name, addresses, date of birth, gender and so on
  • contact details - such as phone number or email address
  • registered GP
  • nominated pharmacy and other linked pharmacies
  • related people, such as next of kin
  • whether the patient is flagged for restricted access
  • historic information such as previous addresses

PDS does not hold:

  • ethnicity - this is a protected characteristic and we don't have a specific legal reason to hold it

For a complete list of information held, see the PDS FHIR API specification.

Data quality

We do a number of things to improve data quality in PDS:


National usage policy

Use of PDS is mandatory if you need to access or manage patient demographic data in England, Wales or the Isle of Man.

In particular, you must use the NHS number to uniquely identify patients, as explained in information standard ISB 0149 NHS number.

This applies across all health and social care settings, including our own national services.

If you keep a local copy of patient demographic data, you must synchronise it regularly with PDS.

For people building health or social care software, the requirement to use PDS is also reflected in the NHS Service Standard.


Examples of use

Adding a new patient

For example:

  • a midwife adding a newborn baby to PDS using a Patient Administration System (PAS)
  • a GP receptionist adding a patient from abroad to PDS using GP software

Identifying patients

For example:

  • an A&E receptionist identifying a patient using the National Care Records Service 
  • a hospital radiology system matching a large number of patient records to NHS numbers during an overnight batch process

Managing patient information

For example:

  • a GP receptionist synchronising a locally held patient record in their GP software
  • a GP receptionist updating a patient record
  • a clinician recording a death
  • the National Back Office resolving data quality issues such as duplicate records

Patient access

For example:


How this service works

For details of how to use this service from within user-facing applications, see our integration guidance.


Status, service level and current usage

This service is live and has been in active use since 2004.

It is currently used in:

  • all GP care settings
  • the vast majority of secondary care settings
  • a wide variety of other use cases

There are over 150 separate point-of-care or patient-facing applications connected to PDS through its system-to-system interfaces. Collectively they perform over 1 billion transactions per month.

PDS is a platinum service, meaning it is available and supported 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


Roadmap

APIs and integration

The PDS FHIR API is our strategic API for accessing PDS. To see our roadmap for it, or to suggest, comment or vote on features, see our interactive product backlog.

The PDS SMSP API is already deprecated and is due to be retired in January 2024.

The PDS HL7 V3 will be deprecated once the PDS FHIR API provides the same capabilities. We don't currently have a fixed date for this.

We are also working on:

  • improving the onboarding experience for the PDS FHIR API by digitising the PDS access request process
  • digitising the onboarding process for PDS MESH

Data quality

We are currently looking at a number of ways in which patients can update their own contact details, such as email address and phone number. 

More reliable, up-to-date patient contact information held on the PDS will help alleviate the administrative workload for GPs and other health and social care professionals. PDS provides a more reliable source of information for them to use.

This could also result in fewer missed health or social care appointments, as reminders and referrals are more likely to receive the correct person in a timely and low-cost way.

We are also working on reducing the number of duplicates and confusion cases.


How to access this service


Contact us

Enquiry Point of contact
Live service incident

National Service Desk

Online portal: NHS England Customer Portal

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 0300 303 5035

General enquiries about the service

Demographics transformation team

Email: [email protected]

Data quality issues

National Service Desk

(issues will be forwarded to the PDS National Back Office)

Online portal: NHS England Customer Portal

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 0300 303 5035

Accessing or onboarding to PDS

Demographics team

Email: [email protected]

Technical integration enquiries Developer help and support
Information about our demographics transformation pilots

Demographics transformation team

Email: [email protected]

Strategic direction of the service

Stewart Fishman (service owner)

Email: [email protected]

Escalations

Stephen Koch (senior responsible officer)

Email: [email protected]



Further information

internal NHS number

The NHS number helps health and social care staff and service providers match patients to their health and care records.

internal Personal Demographics Service fair processing

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) is the national electronic database of NHS patient details such as name, address, date of birth and NHS number (known as demographic information). Information on PDS is managed and maintained to ensure it is accurate and of the best quality.

Last edited: 27 February 2024 8:47 am