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No blanket exemption to NPSA’s call to use patient’s NHS number

All NHS organisations in England and Wales should take every possibleaction to ensure NHS numbers are used to record the identity ofpatients from 18 September 2009, the National Patient Safety Agency hasconfirmed following an article posted on eHealthInsider last week (18August 2009) that stated community pharmacists and other groups of NHSworkers will be made exempt from the requirement

All NHS organisations in England and Wales should take every possible action to ensure NHS numbers are used to record the identity of patients from 18 September 2009, the National Patient Safety Agency has confirmed following an article posted on eHealthInsider last week (18 August 2009) that stated community pharmacists and other groups of NHS workers will be made exempt from the requirement.

The use of NHS numbers as national unique patient identifiers was recommended by the NPSA in its September 2008 safer practice notice, issued jointly with NHS Connecting for Health and Informing Healthcare in Wales.

The recommendation was intended to reduce errors and patient safety incidents occurring as a result of incorrect identification, and should be implemented by 18 September 2009, the notice said.

Last week’s eHealthInsider article said that a statement was expected from the NPSA which would say that certain healthcare providers, including community pharmacists, community nurses and dentists, will not have to comply with the notice, and raised the issue that many pharmacies do not currently have access to the electronic Personal Demographics Service that would allow them to trace a patient’s NHS number.

NPSA medical director Kevin Cleary clarified: “We are aware that certain clinical groups may not currently have direct access to the electronic database used to search for and obtain NHS numbers for individual patients; however, there is no blanket exemption to our associated safer practice notice.”

Dr Cleary asked all NHS organisations to assist the NPSA in implementing the requirement, in the interests of patient safety, and pointed out that there are alternative means of obtaining and using the NHS number other than the electronic Personal Demographics Service.

He asked healthcare organisations to raise awareness of the requirement among patients, and pointed out that an information leaflet is available from the NHS CfH website.

Lindsay McClure, head of information services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, confirmed that pharmacists who cannot currently trace or store NHS numbers will be unable to comply with the recommendation by next month’s deadline — but should prepare for a time when they can.

She told The Journal: “In future, EPS 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.

“It is also worth noting that as the NHS number is included in every electronic prescription message as the patient identifier, use of the electronic prescription service will, over time, support the population of pharmacy patient medication record systems with patient NHS numbers.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10976156

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