NHS Connecting for Health has announced a new national demographics database – the "Personal Demographics Service" – that will enable PCTs to search for a patient's NHS number, and is designed to help speed up the registration process for new university students in England.
CfH says that each year almost 300,000 students head to university to settle into their new lives, prompting a large transfer of medical records at the start of the academic year.
This has previously meant a delay in the transfer of records since, until two years' ago, each NHS system server only identified patients in its immediate area, with resulting delays in many cases.
But, since 2004, NHS Connecting for Health has been working to integrate NHS administration systems in England with the NHS Spine.
Registered users at PCTs should now be able to search immediately for a patient's NHS number on the Personal Demographics Service.
This occurs automatically when the patient registers and then manually if a match cannot be found. If the patient cannot be found manually, for example if they are foreign students, they are registered with a new NHS Number.
CfH says that the ability to locate the patient's record will greatly speed up the registration process, allowing the patient's medical records to be easily and quickly transferred to their new GP practice.
It also claims that, if the patient's new GP practice and previous GP practice is using GP2GP, "the electronic records will be transferred in minutes".
CfH says that the new arrangements have already started to show major benefits, with no rise in the backlog of patient registrations throughout September and October 2007. In previous years these months have shown a significant increase.
"PDS has been mandatory for over two years: why is CfH announcing it as a new benefit now? The benefits of GP2GP are currently only available to EMIS LV and IPS systems – but I am sure that university practices able to do so are using GP2GP as well, and this announcement can hardly be news to anyone in practice management. Who is CfH trying to impress?" – Mary Hawking, GP, Dunstable