Community pharmacists are to be issued with new smartcards to give them access to the Personal Demographics Service.

NHS Connecting for Health and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have released guidance on smartcard arrangements for Release 2 of the Electronic Prescription Service, which CfH expects to go live in 2009.

More than 20,000 pharmacists already have a smartcard to use Release1, but that card, known as EPS01, does not give them access to the NHS Care Records Service.

Now pharmacists have been told that in order to use Release 2 they will need to adopt the same ‘single card’ access model as all other staff accessing parts of the NHS CRS.

Pharmacists who already have an EPS01 card will only have to sign the terms and conditions to receive an NHS CRS smartcard, but pharmacy staff registering for an NHS CRS smartcard for the first time will have to complete the full registration process. This includes identity checks and a face-to-face meeting with the registration authority.

The guidance says pharmacy staff will be allocated access rights dependent on their roles within the pharmacy. The smartcards will provide pharmacists with access to the PDS and the guidance says pharmacists have a duty of care to keep information they access on the CRS safe, secure and confidential.

The guidance adds: “Strict and robust safeguards are in place to protect the security and confidentiality of every patient’s health record, including the demographics information stored in the PDS.

"If a user attempts to access a record which has previously been marked sensitive, an alert will be generated by the service. Notification of the alert will be sent to the appropriate authority within the primary care trust for investigation.”

The guidance states that the migration to NHS CRS smartcards will take place as part of the EPS Release 2 implementation activities.

It states that pharmacists may be upgraded to an NHS CRS smartcard in advance of Release 2 going live in their pharmacy and be left without an EPS01 card to operate Release 1.

If this happens, registration authorities can either issue the pharmacy with an EPS01 ‘premises card’ to ensure continuity of EPS Release 1 functionality or issue an EPS01 card to one or more staff in the pharmacy.

The guidance says the National Registration Authority has advised PCTs that they should start issuing ‘premises cards’ as soon as possible.


EPS Release 2 smartcard guidance