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Queries about smartcards during coronavirus

A number of queries have been raised by the community recently in response to COVID-19. We recognise that some of our processes need to adapt, to ensure that the large numbers of new or returning members of staff can be  quickly provided with the necessary smartcard to enable access to patient information.


There are three principles that organisations should follow in response to the current situation:

  • clinical staff need access to clinical systems as a priority
  • organisations can deviate from established processes where they deem it appropriate – but whatever they do, must be able to be undone at a later date when requested
  • there will not be any sanctions on organisations provided, that decisions made are reasonable and justifiable in the current circumstances

Accessing systems without smartcards

Except for a very limited number of cases (such as spine mini services – demographics) all access to Spine services (PDS, SCR, e-RS, EPS, etc.) require a smartcard. 

Local systems will have been built and assured against this requirement and it is not possible for either NHS Digital, or a local supplier system to change this.

Local system functionality, however, is within the control of the supplier.  For example, if a supplier requires a smartcard to access all system functionality, it may be possible for users to use a local username and password to access the majority of the system’s functionality without a smartcard (accepting that they cannot access the Spine functionality). 

Organisations should speak with their supplier if they require non-Spine enabled system access.

Last edited: 1 April 2020 4:51 pm