The general election

The Conservative election manifesto has reiterated the Tories’ pledge to give patients online control of their own health records.

No details are given of how this will be achieved; leaving open the possibility that a Conservative government might look beyond the NHS’s own HealthSpace to more eye-catching deals with Google or Microsoft.

The manifesto also reaffirms the pledge that a Conservative government would publish much more detailed NHS performance data online. Patients are also promised that they will be able to rate hospitals and doctors.

In the UK’s looming ‘age of austerity’, the Tories are prescribing information as the cure to what ails public services. Far more performance data is promised to be published online for all of the public sector.

“We will make the performance of the NHS totally transparent by publishing information about the kind of results that healthcare providers are achieving, so there is no hiding place for failure,” says the manifesto.

It adds: “We will give patients better access to the treatments, services and information that improve and extend lives, boost the nation’s health, and reform social care.”

Other commitments given on health would create new information requirements, particularly the promise to give individual patients their own health and social care budget.

New information requirements would also be created by the commitment to a new 24/7 urgent care service and weekend access to GPs.

There is also a pledge to scrap waiting-list targets – a mark of how far the NHS has come, given that party manifestos have always, until recently, promised to reduce waiting lists.

However, waiting lists may yet return as a political issue as the NHS is forced to deliver massive savings.

The biggest concern for NHS workers is the promise to introduce a one year public sector pay freeze in 2011. The Conservatives also promise to “cut the cost of NHS bureaucracy by a third."

The manifesto was launched yesterday at the crumbling shell of Battersea power station in South London.

It was chosen as symbolic due to its imminent redevelopment – in a scheme hopefully more successful than the long line of failed wheezes that has left the landmark building roofless and open to the elements for almost two decades.