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'Smart card' plan to follow GPs during their careers

By Joe Lepper

The Government's NHS performance watchdog has mooted proposals for GPs to be

issued with 'smart cards' holding essential details about their health and performance.

Medical director of the National Clinical Assessment Authority Dr Alastair Scotland told a recent Shipman Inquiry seminar the cards would enable primary care organisations to better track problems with GPs' conduct. Holding the information on a card would also make it easier to keep it up to date, he said.

The scheme is currently being rolled out to hospital doctors by the Department of Health. It wants 30,000 hospital doctors in training to be issued with the personalised smart cards, which include a photo of the doctor, by the end of March.

Dr Scotland told Pulse: 'It's staggering how technology can be used in all sorts of different ways to help us. I have no doubt that sharing of information is ripe for technological development.'

He added smart cards could not be rolled out to GPs in the near future because PCOs would have to develop systems to share information about GPs before the system could work.

'We already have the information and there's no need to develop a new national list [of GPs], it would be better to share the information,' he said.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman welcomed the proposals, but said holding the cards would have to be voluntary and not imposed on GPs.

He added: 'This is a long way off but I think it's

a good idea. If we are to have this information anywhere I would like to at least know where it is.'

But Dr Tony Welch, secretary of West Sussex, Kingston and Richmond LMC, said GPs had only just gained entitlement to occupational health benefits. 'Let's get that system working and ensure that GPs see the benefits before we start imposing these measures,' he added.

The department said it was planning to extend the scheme to all hospital staff but had

no 'immediate' plans to introduce smart cards into general practice.

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