NHS Wales has adopted the NHS Number as the official patient identifier for all of its IT systems.
A newly launched standard means that all national new and local NHS Wales patient-focused systems, and all systems that integrate with NHS Wales Informatics Service products, must allow the NHS Number to be built into their software development.
NHS Wales says this will ensure information can be shared safely across systems and will increase patient safety, adding that the majority of systems are already using the "one number for one patient."
Introduced in 1996, every NHS patient in England and Wales has a unique ten-digit number, which permanently identifies them from birth. It was made mandatory for all NHS trusts in 2014, but its use as the primary patient identifier is varied across the healthcare system, making it harder to share patient information between care settings.
NHS England has also committed to driving up usage of the NHS Number and its use as a single patient identifier across the health and social care system in England was enshrined in law last October.
According to the Department of Health, there is a “legal requirement for health and adult social care organisations to share information with each other when they are working together to provide direct care and treatment to a patient."
To make sure this is happening, health professionals have to use a patient’s NHS Number as a single identifier to ensure the information they share is accurate and up-to-date.