Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 8

Trusts are testing a system which uses a hand-scanner to check the identity of staff clocking on and off for work.

Three hundred staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham are trying out the system, which asks staff for a four-figure registration number, then uses a handscanner to confirm the user's identity.

Supplier Smart Human Logistics said the identity checks allow trusts to collect accurate information on attendance, helping them to pay staff the right amount for the hours they have worked.

Account manager Daniel Hickmore told delegates at a conference last month: 'One trust I spoke to said 30 per cent of its staff were overpaid or underpaid every month'.

The hand-checking system also applies to agency staff so trusts do not have to rely on agencies' records of hours worked.

Mr Hickmore there have been reports of problems among only a few users. 'We had a woman who was growing her fingernails - they were an inch long, ' he said, referring to a cleaner rather than a medical professional. 'We are discussing with the union providing another device so she can clock in and out.' As well as University Hospital Birmingham foundation trust, which runs the hospital, a further five trusts are planning to pilot the equipment, in parallel with their implementation of the£325m electronic staff record project.