In the US, the bank can "cancel" a credit or debit card. This means that the number on the card and any information an the chip are "deactivated". That means that the card is useless. Neither the card or the number can be used.
You can cancel a card yourself by calling your bank. Here in the US we do this if we misplace or lose our card. Of course, with American technology the cards are cancelled automatically when the expiration date is passed.
I would think that British banks would have similar technology by now.
Here in the US cards come glued to a sheet of paper. There is generally marketing for the bank and instructions on how to activate the card (generally this involves calling an automated phone number).
I am a bit surprised that your bank isn't advanced enough to simply deactivate an expired credit card. It might be a UK thing.
What do you do in England when you lose your card? It sounds horrible.