Comment

Hello, I am not an NHS number

Jane Bates rails against the trend to identify patients by their NHS digits.
Jane Bates

Jane Bates rails against the trend to identify patients by their NHS digits

I was handed a request to return a patients call and given a name, signs and symptoms as well as a number with ten digits, starting with a seven. There was no preceding zero, and assuming it must be a mistake I stuck one on, and dialled. The number was unobtainable.

Later, when more paperwork arrived, I realised Id been calling the patients NHS number.

This form of identification, which has played no part in my life for decades, seems to have suddenly become popular. Everyone at work is using it. Like vintage crockery, bunting and other post-war relics, it has made a comeback.

Perhaps it is a form of nostalgia for the good old days when a GP made home visits, and district nurses pootled around on bicycles.

I blame

...

Jane Bates rails against the trend to identify patients by their NHS digits

I was handed a request to return a patient’s call and given a name, signs and symptoms as well as a number with ten digits, starting with a seven. There was no preceding zero, and assuming it must be a mistake I stuck one on, and dialled. The number was unobtainable.

Later, when more paperwork arrived, I realised I’d been calling the patient’s NHS number.  

This form of identification, which has played no part in my life for decades, seems to have suddenly become popular. Everyone at work is using it. Like vintage crockery, bunting and other post-war relics, it has made a comeback.

Perhaps it is a form of nostalgia for the good old days when a GP made home visits, and district nurses pootled around on bicycles.

I blame Call the Midwife.

And now for the first time, probably since I was an infant, I find myself being asked to supply mine. But surely I am identifiable enough with my other personal details?

The resurgence of the NHS number must be to do with the countrywide database idea, which has been on the back-burner for so long that the fire has gone out. In the meantime, a line must be drawn.

There are too many numbers for us to remember already: landlines, mobiles, PINs and passwords are turning us into gibbering idiots. I even heard of a nurse who dialled a patient’s NHS number by mistake. No one would do that, surely?


About the author

Columnist Jane Bates

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs