PCT issues smartcards with identical PINs

  • 7 June 2005

A primary care trust issued smartcards to all its practices which had the same PIN for every user; and furthermore, the number was stuck on the back of every card.

A GP in Essex told members of the online GP-UK discussion group about the breach of security procedures for the Connecting for Health smartcards,which happened at a practice already using the system.

He wrote: "One of the practices I work at has gone live with the smartcard, using it you can get into Phoenix for the practice data without a user name or password.

"You just have to put in your card and pin, unfortunately to make life easy the PCT’s IT department gave everyone the same PIN number and stuck it on the back of the cards, software to allow you to change the PIN is due to be rolled out ‘soon’ , meanwhile if you lose your card the PIN number is available to the ‘finder’ who can access the spine and anyone’s details."

The discussion was immediately picked by Connecting for Health’s GP clinical lead Dr Gillian Braunold. She told the GP-UK forum: “I have alerted those in the highest levels of the agency to this breach and no doubt this will not be occurring again.”

Dr Braunold told EHI Primary Care that having a smartcard was an important part of the Connecting for Health system and teething problems were inevitable as the smartcards were rolled out to 1.2 million NHS staff.

She added: "In this particular case it was somebody not understanding what they were supposed to be doing. The cards have been withdrawn and reissued following the proper process and eGIF requirements. Thankfully no harm was done and it was put right very quickly. Mistakes will happen and we can learn from them."

PCTs across England are currently busy registering GPs for smartcards which will enable access to all Connecting for Health programmes including GP2GP transfer of records, electronic transmission of prescriptions and Choose and Book.

PCTs need to register 30 per cent of GPs for smartcards by the end of this month as part of the Choose and Book incentive targets which will enable them to receive £6,000 per average practice.

Dr Braunold said the Choose and Book software was under continual review and that the Connecting for Health clinical leads were feeding back the issues that the profession raises . She said more than 1,000 bookings have now been made using Choose and Book.

She added: "Those doctors and patients concerned are pleased with the way its going and I think we will see an incremental growth in confidence."

She said her own practice in Kilburn, north London, had signed up for Choose and Book and was waiting for local hospitals to release appointments so they could begin to use it.

She said she planned to book appointments with the software as part of the consultation for some patients where she thought it appropriate and refer the rest to the booking management service.

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a GP in Sheffield and member of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee, said he believed smartcards were the best way of regulating access under the circumstances and had been impressed with the way they had been set up.

He said it was still very early days for Choose and Book and that GPs needed to discuss the scheme with their PCTs and see whether it was in their interests to take part.

He told EHI Primary Care: “I think its too early to say whether it going to be good, bad or indifferent. The GPC are very worried about the time involved but people are listening to us and there is development going on.”

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