This government has a long, proud record of hugely expensive IT projects that deliver poor solutions late. Even among these, the centralisation of NHS records is a standout, delivering a solution at least 10 years out of date at an eye-watering cost of £12.7 bn. Speaking as a fairly senior IT professional, I cannot figure out exactly how this project costs as much as a fleet of nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. Even at the most expensive consultancy rates and even with the obsolete monolithic architecture they have settled on, the price should still be only a fraction of this staggering sum. Someone is clearly making a fortune out of the UK taxpayer on this one.
Fortunately, the Conservatives have better ideas. In 2009 it makes no sense to build huge systems from scratch just to manage data. There are established standards and services for this that could deliver electronic NHS records at a cost that is orders of magnitude lower than that the government is shelling out. The Conservative suggestion is to use facilities already being run by Google and Microsoft, and why not? Provided there is a framework that puts the onus on the private companies to keep the data safe then there is no more of a security issue that with a government system, less probably given the government's record of data mishaps. So, patients and health professionals get access to their data, it's presented using existing web standards so further applications are straightforward and it's cheap and available today. That has to be better than lining the pockets of IT consultancies and it has the overriding virtue that it would actually work.