Registration Authorities and smartcards


Smartcards and access control are secure measures by which clinical and personal information is accessed by only those that have a valid reason to do so.

Top tasks

National Registration Authority Policy and Operations and Process Guidance

Registration Authority training

Care Identity Service guidance leaflets and forms

Ordering a supply of smartcards and readers - RA support teams with an account on the Oberthur portal can order a supply of smartcards, and readers can be ordered directly from NHS Digital. Individual card users should contact their local RA team. If you're a primary care provider, find out who to contact. Find out more about ordering smartcards and smartcard readers.

To be issued with an NHS smartcard, health professionals and NHS staff must have their identity verified to NHS Employers' identity check standards.

Registration Authorities

A Registration Authority (RA) is a function, usually within a NHS organisation, that carries out the identity checks of prospective smartcard users and assigns an appropriate access profile to the health professional's role as approved by the employing organisation. 

Smartcards are required to access NHS Spine information systems and Registration Authorities roles and responsibilities are defined by NHS policy.


NHS smartcards are similar to chip and PIN bank cards and enable healthcare professionals to access clinical and personal information appropriate to their role.

A smartcard used in conjunction with a passcode, known only to the smartcard holder, gives secure and auditable access to national and local Spine enabled health record systems.

How are records protected?

The NHS Care Record Guarantee for England sets out the rules that govern how patient information is used in the NHS and what controls patients can have over this. It covers:

  • people's access to their own records
  • controls on others' access (such as carers)
  • how access will be monitored and policed
  • options people have to further limit access
  • access in an emergency
  • what happens when someone cannot make decisions for themselves

Everyone who works for the NHS or for organisations delivering services under contract to the NHS has to comply with this Guarantee. It was first published in 2005 and is subject to regular review, ensuring it remains clear and continues to reflect the law and best practice.

Find out more about Registration Authorities and smartcards

Further information

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    Order smartcard readers

    Use this form to order smartcard readers. You will need to provide your region, organisation type and the reason for your order.