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Use of your NHS number

Use of your NHS Number in Social Care, Education and Community Health Services, and Public Health

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 UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 Principles. It helps us when working with partner organisations to ensure that we are all using the same method of identification to provide health, social care and education services. By using the same reference number, services can work together more closely to improve your care and support, including for adults and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

What do we use NHS numbers for?

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

  • For the administration of adult social care
  • For the administration of children’s social care and Supporting Families programme
  • For the administration of children’s care within the Youth Justice Service
  • For the delivery of Public Health services where direct care is involved
  • For the administration of education and community health for children below and of compulsory school age
  • For the support of children and adults with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), including those with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and those receiving support in schools for an identified SEND, but without an EHCP.
  • For the support of residents in residential and nursing homes
  • For 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 currently use the NHS number outside of the services outlined above.

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). Adult and children's social care send 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 IT systems with your other personal information.

NHS Numbers could also come from forms completed by yourself or a practitioner working with you.

Sharing information like this is very important. It enables Health, Education and Social Care to deliver services as they have the benefit of: 

  • Better coordinated and safer care across health, social care and education. 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
  • Better provision for adults and children with SEND

Is my information kept secure?

Cornwall Council is committed to securing your NHS Numbers from unauthorised access, use or disclosure. The Council’s IT systems are 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 UK GDPR and 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 UK GDPR 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 at this link Data Protection pages. 

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

You can contact our Information Governance team about the use of your NHS Number. 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 or education purposes, please talk with your social worker or contact us at:

Data used for planning and research purposes

Most of the time personal data is anonymised before it is used for research and planning purposes so that individuals cannot be identified. However, when personal information might be used for research and planning purposes, you have a choice about whether we use personal information this way under the National Data Opt-Out.

If you are happy with this use of personal information you do not need to do anything.

If you do choose to opt out of your personal information being used for research and planning purposes, personal information will still be used to support individual direct care.

More information and contact:

This NHS Number Privacy Policy links to a number of other Council privacy policies:

We would prefer any complaints to be made to us initially so that we have the opportunity to see if we can put things right. However, if you are unhappy with the way we have processed your information or how we have responded to your request to exercise any of rights in relation to your data, you can raise your concerns direct with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Telephone: 0303 123 1113 or at

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