Community pharmacists and other groups of NHS workers will be made exempt from the national requirement to use the NHS Number from next month because they cannot trace or store NHS Numbers.

The National Patient Safety Agency is expected to publish an official statement confirming that healthcare providers including community pharmacists, community nurses, dentists, optometrists and ambulance services will not to have to comply with its Safety Practice Notice on the NHS Number.

The Safety Practice Notice was issued by the NPSA last year and requires all NHS organisations that provide primary, secondary and other types of care to use the NHS Number as the national patient identifier.

Lindsay McClure, head of information services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said community pharmacies were unable to comply with the Safety Practice Notice, even though many of them would wish to do so.

She told EHI Primary Care: “A key issue is that at present pharmacies don’t have access to the Personal Demographics Service and a patient attending the pharmacy to receive a service such as a medicines use review may not know their number.

"In future, Electronic Prescription Service Release 2 enabled pharmacy systems will support pharmacy staff, with patient consent, in conducting a simple trace on the PDS to locate a patient’s NHS Number.”

McClure said it was also worth noting that as the NHS Number is included in every electronic prescription message as the patient identifier, use of the EPS will over time support the population of pharmacy patient medication record systems with patient NHS Numbers.

The PSNC has told community pharmacists that the NPSA acknowledges that healthcare organisations that cannot at present trace or store NHS Numbers are unable to comply with the Safety Practice Notice’s recommendations.

However, it has advised that such organisations should prepare for the time when they can trace NHS Numbers.