Britons travelling in Europe are to be issued with a new card to give them swift access to the health service when they fall ill. The technology for issuing the cards - which could be a forerunner to more widespread identity cards - is being prepared by the Department of Health, on instructions from the EU Commission, which wants a standard card in use across all 25 EU states.
Travellers may welcome the new cards, which will be available from 1 January 2006, because they will be free and less complicated than the E1-11 form Britons are supposed to fill in before leaving for the Continent. Most tourists ignore the form and hope that they do not suffer health problems while they are away.
But the cards will get a mixed reception from those who are fighting a battle against government plans to compel all British citizens to register for ID cards.
John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, is...