Published: 01/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5984 Page 19

Andy Hadley, informatics programme manager, South East Dorset PCT

I was disappointed - I assume by the Prescription Pricing Authority rather than Connecting for Health - when I received my new European health insurance card.

OK, it is not a Smartcard so it could not easily be developed to cover health alerts, or automate patient identification when Britons are treated abroad, as the French or Andalucian system can do (page 12, HSJ Intelligence, 8 September).

That is a shame, but it would be an additional cost.

Those responsible have also chosen to use a completely new identification number.

Had they used the NHS number, this would raise the prospect of summaries of treatment abroad getting back to the relevant UK patient records.

Had they included a barcode of the number, some healthcare providers could have avoided transcription identity errors.

These simple steps always seem beyond policy-makers. Or perhaps it is all part of the strategy to justify an intrusive, expensive, all-inclusive national identity card.