The Conservative party has put forward proposals to scrap the government’s centralised Integrated Care Record Service (ICRS), also known as the NHS Spine.
The plans involve replacing the controversial technology - which is estimated to have cost the public between £12bn and £20bn - with a system which allows citizens to store their own medical records using online services such as Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health.
The new proposals come after an independent review of NHS information which was commissioned by the Tories last year and produced by the NHS IT Policy Review Group - a mixture of health and computer experts and leading clinicians.
Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien argued that the benefits include the end of the huge NHS IT Spine project which has suffered constant set backs, so much so that it is now five years behind schedule.
He added that individuals’ confidential health data would be at less risk under the new proposals as the current system allows data to be shared between numerous health care professionals.
The other benefit, O’Brien argued, is that giving patients the ability to store and update their records with an online supplier of their choice will give them greater control over their own information.
“It can empower patients, allowing them to share information with third parties if they choose to do so," said the Conservatives in response to the report.
"Giving patients greater control of their data can also drive social and commercial innovation, and enable communities of patients to come together."
The Tories pointed to patients in Canada and the US that store health information on the web, usually through Google Health, which is currently not available in the UK. The patients also have a copy of their data held locally by their current doctor.
Patients in France, Germany and Austria, meanwhile, all hold electronic smart cards through which they can access their health information records – data which is also held by a clinician in charge of their care.
In a statement, the government said it had made progress in modernising public sector IT but did not comment on whether the review held any merit.
In addition, an NHS spokeswoman said it is unlikely to carry out a cost benefit analysis of the National Programme for IT, despite calls for one in the latest Public Accounts Committee report earlier this year and from the Conservatives.
The findings of the new report from the NHS IT Policy Review Group agrees with suggestions put forward in a Centre for Policy Studies document released at the beginning of July.
Back then, V3.co.uk readers gave a mixed reponse to the proposals.
Martin Dear said there had been too many data leaks for the public to keep trusting the government with its central IT agenda.
“The grotesque project of the government is just too cumbersome and is likely to leak like a sieve - or the data be left on a train or in a taxi,” he said.
“We must surely be able to look after it ourselves much better than they can in one central database."
However, Steve Atkinson was more concerned with the plans to do away with a centralised system.
“Apart from a comparatively low level of computer proficiency in the population at large, there are still huge tranches of the population who do not have access to a PC, and others who live in areas that might as well be on the moon,” he argued.
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