A multibillion pound German scheme to create smartcards of digital patient records, has been abandoned in the face of concerns over delays, rising costs and data security.

The news contrasts with the UK's own £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, which is pressing ahead in spite of more than a four year delay to patient records, and troubled system rollouts. Some £6.1 billion has been spent so far. The Obama administration in the US is also targeting the creation of a national patient records system.

The German programme, which has received £1.5 billion worth of government and health insurance companies' funding, and is now over three years late, was this month halted by the country's new health minister Philipp Rösler.

Doctors and other German health industry experts had raised vocal concerns, over the feasibility of the technology, the costs of buying equipment to read the cards, and the security of the data. Last year, there were even doctors' marches in the street, in protest to the plans.

The German programme focused on providing a smartcard to every patient, containing records data, the British Medical Jornal reported. It differed from the UK where there are no patient smartcards, and where a central £889 million 'spine' is being created to hold all the information, accessible by clinicians.

The scheme has now been drastically reduced in size, with records being rolled out only to trial areas. The data on the card will also be simpler, containing only patients' addresses, and basic health and insurance information. It was originally intended to contain full health records as well as enabling electronic prescriptions.