Use of your NHS number

Use of your NHS Number in Adult and Children’s Social Care

Privacy Notice – why we use your NHS Number

NHS numbers are an example of the type of personal data that Cornwall Council handles.  Personal data is information that identifies living individuals. It is collected and processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act Principles. It helps us when working with other organisations to ensure that we are all using the same method of identification. This helps provide health services and social care. By using the same number the NHS and Social Care Services can work together more closely to improve your care and support. The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 makes it an obligation on organisations to use a consistent identifier which is why the NHS number is used.

What do we use NHS numbers for?

The NHS number is used for administrative purposes only and does not affect entitlement to care. We may use NHS numbers for the following purposes: 

  • The administration of adult social care
  • The administration of children’s social care
  • Public health where direct care is involved
  • Pre-school where the child has a health condition or disability
  • Residential and nursing homes
  • Special Educational Needs
  • Other activities where services communicate with health bodies about direct care. Examples include:
    • GPs
    • hospitals
    • community matrons
    • district nurses and
    • social care practitioners

We do not use the NHS number outside of the services outlined above. We do not use it as a general identifier for service records about individuals unless there is a recognised health or care factor. NHS numbers are only kept as long as necessary for the purpose of providing health or social care.

How do we use it and why it is so important?

Your NHS number is accessed through an NHS service called the Personal Demographic Service (PDS). This is accessed at the time of patient contact.  Adult and children's social care services sends basic information to the PDS in order to find your NHS Number. This information may include:

  • your name
  • your address and
  • your date of birth

Once retrieved from the PDS the NHS Number is stored on Cornwall Council’s social care case management system.

Sharing information like this is very important. It enables health and adult and children's social care to deliver services as they have the benefit of: 

  • Better coordinated and safer care across health and social care. This is enabled through the sharing of real-time information
  • Better coordination of discharges from hospital into social care. (This is to avoid issues such as delayed hospital discharge known as bed blocking)
  • More time to spend on planning and coordinating social care. This is because health staff can identify and involve social care staff earlier in the process
  • Earlier intervention to maximise the opportunities or reablement services. This leads to greater independence for patients
  • Less paperwork and more efficient use of social care resources

Is my information kept secure?

Cornwall Council is committed to securing your NHS Numbers from unauthorised access, use or disclosure. Databases are heavily encrypted and password protected. They are viewed only by those who have specific rights to access that information. Council employees must abide by the laws of the Data Protection Act. Our employees receive regular Data Protection training. Access to information is also strictly controlled based on the role of the professional. For example social workers will only have access to information that is relevant to carrying out of their care duties. 

What to do if you want to see information we hold about you

The Data Protection Act provides members of the public with a right to request copies of documented information that the council holds about them. This is called the right of Subject Access. Find out how to access your personal data, including details of the information needed by the council to progress your request. You can view the Council's Subject Access Request Policy on our Data Protection pages. 

What to do if you are concerned about how we use your NHS number

You can contact either your social worker or named worker to ask about use of your data. Alternatively you can contact our Information Governance team. Details about how to contact them can be found below:

Data Protection Officer
Cornwall Council
County Hall

Tel: 01872 326424


You also have the right to object to the processing of your NHS Number in this way.  This will not stop you from receiving care, but may result in the benefits outlined above not being realised.  To help you decide, we will discuss with you how this may affect our ability to provide you with care, and any other options you have.

If you wish to opt-out from the use of your NHS Number for social care purposes, please talk with your social worker. You can contact us by

If you are dissatisfied with the way Cornwall Council has handled or shared your personal information you can complain. You have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner's Office. They will normally ask you to have asked us to investigate any concerns initially. 

For more information about accessing information please visit the Data Protection pages.

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