Patient-held records are one of the Conservative Party’s priorities for health, according to plans published today.

The party said it would carry out a full consultation on how to move to patient-held records with a view to introducing them throughout the NHS.

In a speech at the Royal College of Pathologists, party leader David Cameron said patient-held records would put patients in control and allow resources to be pushed from bureaucrats to professionals and patients.

He added: “When Labour were deciding how to store people’s health record, they commissioned a massive, bureaucratic IT project and spent billions of pounds on a centralised database.

“Our approach is to say that today, in the post-bureaucratic age, you don’t need a massive central computer to do this.”

Cameron said ‘one option’ would be for patients to store their health records online although he did not refer to commercial health platforms such as Google Health and Microsft’s HealthVault which have been widely mooted in connection with his party’s health plans.

The proposals published today indicate that the Conservatives want a system wide reform of the NHS, focusing on five priorities: creating a patient-led NHS, measuring health outcomes, putting healthcare professionals in charge of delivering care, focusing government action on improving public health and reforming long-term care.

Priorities include a pledge to ‘restructure’ Choose and Book to enable all referrals to be made to a named consultant – an option that is currently left to individual trust departments to activate – and to widen the number of providers on the system.

The published priorities do not include any further detail on the Conservatives’ plans to dismantle the National Programme for IT in the NHS’ central infrastructure, as outlined earlier this year.

However, Cameron said foundation trusts would be given greater powers and freedom and that foundation status would be extended to cover all NHS providers. Private and voluntary sector providers will be allowed to compete for NHS contracts.

GPs will also be given control over real commissioning budgets in what sounds like a return to fundholding, with GP practices allowed to reinvest any savings made on their budgets.

Cameron also pledged to renegotiate the GP contract and open up primary care to new providers as well as scrapping all NHS targets. He claimed these had led to too much bureaucracy and to clinical judgements being undermined.

He added: “With a Conservative government, our professionals will experience a level of freedom the like of which most will not have known before.”

He said professionals would be made accountable through the publication online of detailed performance information for every hospital, including outcome data. He also said Payment by Results would be extended.

On long–term care, the Conservatives say people will be helped to stay in their own homes through through new initiatives, including more telehealth and telemedicine pilots followed by full national roll-out.

The Conservatives also reaffirmed a long standing policy to rename the Department of Health the Department of Public Health and to introduce ring-fenced public health budgets for PCTs and councils.

Todays plans say a further 4,200 health visitors will be recruited and that a new public health strategy, aimed at improving exercise and diet and reducing alcohol abuse, will be created.

Link: David Cameron’s speech on the Conservative Party website