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Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

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.

Emergency Registration Guidance

The Emergency Registration Guidance that was introduced to support identity verification activity during the pandemic, will end on Friday 31 March 2023. This guidance refers to the use of video calls and scans to verify a persons’ identity.

Find out more about the removal of Emergency Registration Guidance.

Registration authorities

A registration authority 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.

Find out about Registration Authority training and the Care Identity Services e-learning materials.

Care Identity Service

The Care Identity Service is an electronic system for registering and issuing smartcards. Registration authorities use the Care Identity Service to control NHS smartcard access for the NHS Spine's 800,000+ smartcard users. It’s a unified application that provides a single location for all registration authority activities.

Physical and digital smartcards and smartcard readers

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.

We offer and assure different types of smartcard including physical, digital and virtual smartcards. Learn more about the types of smartcards available to access clinical systems, including information for new starters.

Find out how to order smartcards and smartcard readers.

Important information for those that require smartcards and readers

GP practice, pharmacy and other smaller independent provider organisation staff that require smartcards and readers should contact their local RMs. These are usually based in local commissioning organisations or CSUs.

Please do not request an Oberthur Portal account or complete the reader request form.

Individual card users should contact their local registration authority teams.

Find contact details for primary care service provider organisations.

Changes to practice under COVID-19

Guidance for clinicians and local registration authorities trying to use or provide smartcard services during COVD-19.

Streamlining authentication guidance for clinicians

How to verify identity and issue smartcards when face-to-face contact is not an option.

Remote smartcard registration

Our emergency guidance for registration authorities (RAs) will help RA service providers and registering organisations when completing RA smartcard registrations using video conferencing facilities.

This process will apply when face-to-face registration meetings and the use of identity checkers are not possible during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Making it easier new starters

With thousands of professionals returning to practice, and more entering practice for the first time, it is important that they have access to the critical systems that they need to deliver safe and effective patient care.

Learn more about smartcards to access clinical systems.

Download our guidance leaflets

We have a range of guidance leaflets for smartcard and authentication users, registration authority managers, agents and administrators.

Download our Care Identity Service guidance

NHS Employers identity check standards

To be issued with an NHS smartcard, health professionals and NHS staff must have their identity verified.


Policy and guidance

Local registration authority managers will find it useful to refer to the Registration Authority Policy. This policy was updated on 31 January 2022.


Care Identity Service users will find it useful to refer to the Operational and Process Guidance.


Further information

internal Spine

Spine supports the IT infrastructure for health and social care in England, joining together over 23,000 healthcare IT systems in 20,500 organisations.

internal Smartcard printers

Find out about ordering printer materials and additional printers, along with how to report printer problems.


Last edited: 9 January 2023 12:50 pm