- 6 Jul 09, 16:45 GMT
Would a Conservative government dump the hugely expensive plan to digitise NHS patient records - and hand the job over to private firms like Google or Microsoft?
What's under discussion is the NHS National Programme for IT - or more specifically the Care Records Service - which is being introduced in England.
Last year the National Audit Office warned that the whole project was over-budget and years behind schedule, with the total cost to the taxpayer running at £12.7bn and rising.
Not yet, a press officer told me, but they are looking at a review they've commissioned from a panel of experts which has been considering what to do about the NHS IT project.
And a further hint that there was something to the story came this morning at an event called Reboot Britain, convened to discuss radical ways of using technology to rewire politics and the delivery of public services.
The shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was the opening speaker, and while discussing the way the internet was shifting the balance of power between people and politicians, he did throw in that NHS IT figure of £12.7bn and ask whether there might be a better cheaper way of giving the public control over their medical records.
But Google did not seem eager to rush in and grab this great big contract. Its Google Health is a service which allows Americans to build online health profiles, to download their own records from doctors and pharmacies, and to search for medical information and treatment.
But Google stresses that this service works in a healthcare system that could hardly be more different from the one in the UK.
Microsoft has a rather different line on its HealthVault system which it describes as a "personal health application platform designed to put consumers in control of their health information."
The company says it's already in talks with the NHS about launching the system in England, though as an add-on rather than a replacement for the Care Records Service.
But would getting in either of these firms save any money? Because it's worth noting that private sector businesses - including Microsoft - are already heavily involved in the NHS National Programme for IT, but that hasn't stopped the project from becoming a costly disaster.
What is clear, however, is that politicians from all parties are waking up to two things - firstly, that huge centralised IT projects nearly always end in tears, and secondly that a web-savvy populace is demanding more access to its own data.
So a plan to allow us all to store our medical records, along with our photos and e-mails, somewhere in a Google or Microsoft cloud will need a lot of work before it becomes a reality.
But don't rule it out. After all, who would have predicted 10 years ago that we would one day see the head of MI6 in his Speedos on Facebook?
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