The Department of Health has announced that the NHS Number can be used in social care to link social care records as well as NHS records.

The DH has issued a policy statement on use of the NHS Number in social care which confirms that it must be used for linking and identifying NHS records but may also be used for this purpose by social services.

NHS Connecting for Health told EHI Primary Care that the policy statement was a major driver for the work being undertaken by the NHS Number Programme, which is developing an information standard for use of the NHS Number in adult social care.

The spokesperson said the standard will be published through the Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care (ISB HaSC).

The requirements stage document for the standard states that most social care organisations currently use local identifiers, which are not widely understood outside specific organisations. It says some care trusts are using the NHS Number to link health and social care information.

The document adds: “The use of the NHS Number will allow safe and effective sharing of information between and within organisations.

"This will ensure that the correct health and social care records are linked to the correct person, reducing risks in safety and unnecessary and incorrect treatment and care. There is also an intention for social care to align with the NHS with regard to use of the NHS Number.”

A CfH spokesperson told EHI Primary Care: “The NHS Number is not yet used to a large extent in social care; the NHS Number programme is supporting the improved and increased use of the NHS Number through the whole of health and social care.”

The requirements stage document for the standard said it was difficult to confirm a timeline for publication of the standard but that the draft standard was expected to be delivered around September 2009 with the full standard between six and 12 months later.