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Tories back IWantGreatCare in plans for 'NHS information revolution'

By Steve Nowottny

The Conservative Party have backed the controversial rate-your-GP website www.iwantgreatcare.org as part of radical proposals for a shakeup of NHS information strategy.

A new policy document, published last week and billed as a strategy ‘to save lives', calls for an end to the ‘monopoly of NHS Choices' and pledges to ‘open up the market' to private sector and voluntary providers.

NHS Choices would no longer be run under the Department of Health's control, and would have to compete on equal terms with other providers.

The www.iwantgreatcare.org website, which allows patients to anonymously rate and comment on individual doctors' performance, is specifically praised as an ‘example of the kind of innovation we want to encourage.'

The document states: ‘Because private and third sector providers have clearly shown they are far better at providing and disseminating information than the public sector, we will end the dominance of NHS Choices and open up the market for the provision of information to any willing provider.'

‘Information providers will be able to compete on a level playing field for any government funding and will have equal access to all NHS information that the NHS Board decides should be collected.'

The document outlines a number of other ways it would seek to expand access to information as part of a Conservative Government's emphasis on patient choice.

A proportion of the funding currently allocated to NHS Choices would be set aside to providers who work with ‘digitally excluded patients', to help provide information to people who never use the internet.

Patient reported outcome measures would be developed and used alongside patient experience data to inform healthcare performance assessments.

And call centres staffed by nurses would be set up to proactively telephone patients with information about their healthcare and the options available to them – for example, informing women about the local availability of breast cancer screening.

The document argues the scheme, based on a model used by some healthcare providers in the US, ‘can help save many lives, as well as large amounts of NHS money, because it means illnesses can be prevented or those that need treatment receive it before it is too late.'

Launching the information strategy last week, Conservative Party leader David Cameron said improved access to information would help prevent a repeat of the 'unacceptable standards of care' recently revealed at Stafford Hospital.

'We cannot let the headlines of last month turn into a shrug of the shoulders today,' he said.

'That means scrapping all those centrally-imposed process targets that distort clinical judgements and make the NHS answer to politicians. And it means opening up the NHS with a genuine information revolution – a revolution that puts power in the hands of people, makes doctors respond to patients and genuinely saves lives.'

Conservative Party leader David Cameron Conservative Party leader David Cameron

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