Blood patients get 'smart cards'

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(First Edition)

THE Government is to introduce 'smart cards' for the 5,000 people in Britain who suffer from sickle cell disease, to prevent patients being misdiagnosed as drug addicts, writes Tom Wilkie.

The cards carry electronic information for emergency treatment, and will also be offered to people with other inherited diseases of the blood. Many sufferers have complained that they are not getting proper treatment. After a three-year review, the Department of Health yesterday published 60 recommendations for improving care, but health authorities must fund these from existing budgets.

In sickle cell disease, prevalent in the Afro-Caribbean population, the cells become rigid and can clog small blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen. Sufferers experience sudden 'pain crises' which strike without warning. Dr Elizabeth Anionwu, of the Institute of Child Health in London, said many doctors were unfamiliar with the disease because it did not feature in traditional textbooks. 'If a junior house officer is presented with a young black man in pain, making a noise and demanding large doses of pethidine or diamorphine, then in an inner-city area that rings alarm bells about drug abuse.'