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Personal “smart card” alternative to national database

29 December 2008

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Patients concerned about the security of confidential records are now able to carry sensitive details of their medical history on a “smart card” the size of a credit card.

The £40 Health eCard is being offered as an alternative to a planned national database that will store the electronic medical records of millions of patients in England.

So far, 300 patients have signed up to the eCard scheme, which is being offered by 21 GP surgeries, mainly in the South East.

The card can store hospital referral letters, vaccination date reminders and test results, as well as more general medical records. It plugs into a computer’s USB port so that the information can be quickly and easily accessed using a password.

The planned national database, known as the Spine, will hold a patients’ “summary care records”, according to the Department of Health. It is expected to be fully operational by 2014-15.

However, GP Julian Godlee, who is already using the Health eCard at his practice in St Albans, told the Times that recent government data losses had heightened concerns over a national database.

“We have all recently witnessed the debacle over lost records of one sort or another that threatens to compromise the security of private individuals as they go about their daily lives,” he commented.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Department of Health