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Personal Health Budgets roll-out announced

The Government has announced £1.5m for the roll-out of Personal Health Budgets (PHB), to help patients design their own care.

The budgets have had in-depth pilots at 20 sites over the last three years and an evaluation report found that patients’ quality of life improved and the amount of times people had to attend hospital decreased overall.

If half the people eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare chose to take the offer of a budget, it could mean a potential saving of around £90m. By April 2014, up to 56,000 people will have the right to ask for a PHB.

The spending of the budget will be reviewed regularly every 3-12 months.

Care and support minister Norman Lamb, said: “Independent analysis has now shown that personal health budgets can put people back in control of their care and make a significant difference to their quality of life.

“The evaluation shows that those with the greatest needs benefit most from personal health budgets. That’s why we are giving people on NHS continuing healthcare the chance to get one first.”

Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, welcomed the roll-out and said: “It’s worth noting that budget-holders appear to secure more of their services from outside conventional NHS providers than the control group. New Clinical Commissioning Groups must recognise this and build it into their commissioning plans for 2013-14 and future years, as personal health budgets become more widely used.”

But Dr Peter Carter, chief executive & general secretary of the RCN warned: “While we are not opposed to people being given a choice in how their care is provided and by who, we still believe that there may be unintended consequences caused by the extension of the use of Personal Health Budgets.”

The RCP concerns include pressure on patients to ‘top-up’ their care and the potential to exacerbate inequalities and place vulnerable people at risk.

Dr Carter concluded: “The priority for the NHS should be to provide the care that is needed to all its patients, and the move to Personal Health Budgets could prove a costly distraction from that important aim.” 

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