'Use NHS numbers to identify patients'

All NHS organisations in England and Wales should use a patient's NHS number as the national unique patient identifier, according to the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), NHS Connecting for Health (England) and Informing Healthcare (Wales).

This follows reports to the NPSA of incidents arising from reliance on local hospital numbering systems that demonstrate a real danger to patients.

Between June 2006 and August 2008 the NPSA received reports of over 1,300 incidents resulting from confusion and errors about patient identifying numbers.

While no deaths or cases of serious harm to patients have been reported so far, healthcare staff have commented that it is causing significant risk to patient safety.


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