Your NHS number is the unique identifying number that is used to identify you for all NHS services, whether in the GP, hospital or any other NHS clinical service. The number is 10 digits and looks something like
123 456 7890
You do not need to know your NHS number or have it available if you want to access NHS services – most services can identify you though your name, date of birth, sex, address.
NHS numbers are generated on the NHS England database when you first come into contact with an NHS service – for most people this will be your first registration with a GP. Please note the GP does not make the number, but rather applies to NHS England on your behalf to create one. Therefore, if you have previously registered with a UK GP, you will likely have an NHS number already.
We are noting a lot of international students who have had to pay the NHS Health surcharge already have an NHS number by the time they arrive in the UK.
If you do not have an NHS number already then, the application process for NHS England is about 10-14 working days.
For most cases, NHS England will send out a small NHS card which contains your NHS number the first time you register with a GP. This is a small piece of paper which is posted to your registered address. Please note this is done through NHS England and not the GP practice. Sometimes the card does not arrive to the intended person, as the service depends on the postal service, and these letters can often get lost in shared accommodation such as large blocks of flats, student halls etc. The NHS card is not in any way related to your NHS care; it is purely information about your NHS number.
If you wish to obtain your NHS number, the NHS app is recommended to allow you direct access to your patient information such as your NHS number. It links directly with your GP medical records, and can allow you to manage your care online, for example by allowing you to order prescriptions, review your medical records. We are even in the process of introducing appointment booking through the NHS app.