HL Deb 24 July 1996 vol 574 cc139-40WA
Lord Marlesford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many national health numbers and national insurance numbers respectively are recorded as being in current use in the United Kingdom and what arrangements exist for the cancellation of numbers on the death of the holder.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

The Department of Social Security's national insurance recording system (NIRS) holds approximately 64 million national insurance number records. All of these numbers remain valid, including those which relate to deceased persons' national insurance contribution records. The only circumstance in which a national insurance number is cancelled on the death of the account holder is where a person dies before reaching age 16, the minimum age for payment of national insurance contributions.

Deceased persons' national insurance accounts have to be retained on the national insurance recording system in order to allow dependants access to contributory benefits based on the deceased's national insurance contributions. In the case of retirement pension this can be many years after the death has occurred.

All deaths registered with the General Registration Service are notified automatically. On receipt of a notification of death, this information is relayed to the relevant NIRS account. Any subsequent activity on the NIRS account is investigated and benefit payment systems automatically prevent inappropriate use of that record for benefit processing.

The Department of Social Security keeps its procedures for notification and recording of dates of death under review to ensure that they are as robust and accurate as possible.

A total of 54,138,915 national health insurance numbers were registered as being in use in England and Wales on 4th July 1996. These include all persons originally registered for healthcare in Scotland or Northern Ireland who are currently resident and registered for healthcare in England or Wales.

All deaths registered in the United Kingdom and deaths of British citizens overseas are notified via the General Registration Service to the National Health Service Central Register for England and Wales. A "death posting stop mark" is then placed on the person's record on the National Health Service Central Register. The health authority where the person is registered is notified and applies a "death posting stop mark" to its own records as well as notifying the general practitioner, operators of health screening systems, child health systems and the United Kingdom Organ Donor Service (TSSA). The "death posting stop mark" prevents any future use of the National Health Service number. The patient's records are retrieved from the general practitioner's surgery. The patient's details and National Health Service number are retained on historic files for the statutory period, now up to 25 years.