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Printed: 12/07/2020
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National Health Index

Updated: 01 July 2013

Every person in New Zealand has an National Health Index (NHI) number which should be a unique identifier ascribed at birth. There is the possibility of error, or duplication, in the case of adopted children who are registered in one name and then receive another name following adoption. Adoptive parents need to be aware of the need to enlist the aid of their family doctor to avoid this.

Assignment of the National Health Index number

The Lead Maternity Carer (midwife usually) will ensure that the details of mother and child are entered into the database of the New Zealand Health Information Service (NZHIS) and a NHI number is assigned.

National Health Index

The NHI is a unique identifier which stays with the individual for life. It includes:

  • name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • New Zealand resident status
  • ethnicity, and
  • if appropriate, flags indicating any medical warnings.

Remind each birthmother that if she does not want to receive correspondence generated by the NHI during the period before the adoption is finalised she can give her mailing address as c/o the social worker.

The NHI is entered in the Well Child book which is a record of the early progress of the child, recorded by the midwife and the Plunket nurse and goes with the child. It is important to remember:

  • when the birthmother takes her child home for interim care pending adoptive placement to remind her to pass it on to the adoptive parents at placement
  • when the child goes to a caregiver the book should be given into that person’s keeping with the birthmother’s knowledge and agreement, as there may be entries to be made by the midwife or Plunket nurse
  • when the child is placed with adoptive applicants, the book should be given to them, preferably by the birthparents, but if not in person, again with her knowledge and agreement.

Knowing the NHI number, the adoptive parents can ensure continuity of the child’s medical records and initiate immunisation through their family doctor, who can advise the NHI Privacy Officer of the child’s change of legal name. Adoptive applicants have guardian status for the purpose of consenting to medical procedures, including immunisation, under s36 (4) of the Care of Children Act 2004.

Once the adoption order is granted, the original birth names are not erased from the record, but “logically deleted” from the screen, while remaining in the database.