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Management of NHS Numbers and PDS Records

The Personal Demographics Service (PDS) National Back Office (NBO) has responsibility for the management of NHS Numbers and PDS records.

Examples of our role include:

  • restricting access to a patient's record (set Sensitive status or 'S' flagging)
  • changes of identity
  • NHS Number allocations
  • PDS record and batch file reconciliation 

Restricting access to a patient's record

We manage the setting of the sensitive status on PDS records. This is often referred to as S-flagging a patient record.

The status is set to sensitive on request to restrict access to location information on a PDS record. It is removed when the restriction is no longer required. When requesting or removing restricted access, patients can also set or change their national data opt-out preference. Patients with a sensitive flag set as at the end of March 2019 will already have a national data opt-out set.

Some services that NHS Digital provide are not available to patients when a sensitive status is set, because their up-to-date contact information is restricted. This includes the e-Referral Service (e-RS), GP2GP, Summary Care Record (SCR) and the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS). It may also prevent access to services enabled through NHS login. The impact of setting a sensitive status should be explained by the GP to the patient when the request is made. 

Further guidance on restricting access to a patient's demographic record.

Changes of identity

Management of PDS records in cases of adoption, gender reassignment and protection of identity. 

NHS Number allocations

We allocate NHS Numbers for patients who do not have one and who require NHS treatment. Examples include:

  • patients referred from the Channel Islands for treatment in England or Wales
  • short-term visitors from abroad who require NHS treatment

PDS records and Batch File Reconciliation

When batch files are processed against the PDS the automatic update of a record may not be successful. This could be due to differences between the data supplied and the data held on the PDS. When this happens, we investigate, confirm the correct record match and manually process the data.

This occurs following the processing of batch files containing: 

  • civil registrations of birth
  • civil registrations of death
  • overseas visitors and migrants who have paid the immigration health surcharge

When data is transferred via batch files from systems not linked to PDS, NBO implements manual processes to trigger the movement of paper medical records. This occurs following the processing of batch files containing cross border transfers with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Last edited: 26 October 2023 3:01 pm