The NHS Information Authority scooped two top prizes for the NHS Numbers of Babies (NN4B) service at the 2003 Government Computing/Syntegra Awards.

Programme manager, Alan Smith won the Information Age Innovator of the Year award and the NN4B team won the category for “Best Project Within An Organisation”.

Mr Smith said: "To represent the NHS Information Authority at such a prestigious event is tremendous. To actually win the award is a great honour and I thank all the teams who worked hard to make the number programme a success."

NN4B went live in October 2002. The service allocates an NHS number at birth to every baby born in England. Previously, NHS numbers were allocated at registration which can take place up to six weeks after a baby is born. The time lapse meant that important information about tests, results and treatment was liable to be lost as babies often change their addresses and names in their early weeks.

The definitive identifier provided by the NHS number is crucial, especially for babies who need a lot of treatment or special care after birth. It can also help with the efficient administration of routine tests.

The National Hearing Screening Programme, for example, will shortly start using the service nationally to identify babies for testing and recording results. An interface developed with NN4B enables screeners to download a baby’s details before administering the test, thus improving data accuracy and saving time spent entering details manually

The NHSIA is campaigning to ensure that the NHS number is used widely and effectively and says the number, issued for the whole of a person’s life, makes the process of building a true life-long electronic health record possible.