NHS cash used to pay for holidays, new clothes and treats for patients

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THOUSANDS OF pounds of NHS cash is being spent on treats for patients, including holidays, aromatherapy, new clothes and a summer house, according to an investigation.

The budgets were introduced by the Government to allow people with long-term conditions and disabilities greater choice and control over the healthcare and support they receive.

Together with an NHS team or GP, patients develop a care plan on how the money should be spent.

The pot of cash can be used to pay for a wide range of services, including therapies to help with depression, help with personal care such as dressing and washing, and equipment.

The amount of money varies from person to person and depends on a patient’s needs.

Pulse used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much was spent in 2014/15 on personal health budgets.

Some 33 Clinical Commissioning Groups out of 209 in England provided full responses.

The NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the NHS Corby CCG, which handle health money for Northamptonshire, spent £2.55 million between them on personal health budgets for 161 patients.

From this, some money was spent on a family holiday to allow a patient to “re-establish relations” with their children while another went on holiday with a dog.

Cash was also spent on a satnav, new clothes, an iRobot cleaner and the construction of a summer house so one patient could have “their own space”.

Further money was spent on hydrotherapy, shiatsu, Indian head massages, art classes and kitchen equipment, including a food processor.

A spokesman said the money was to achieve outcomes that “focus on improving an individual’s health and wellbeing.”

He added: “All personal health budgets are clinically agreed and monitored.”

In Kernow in Cornwall, £267,000 was spent on five people, including £2,080 on aromatherapy, £248 on horse riding and just over £7 on hiring pedalos.

A spokesman said “We follow national guidance when agreeing personal health budgets.”

The NHS Stoke on Trent CCG spent £114,000 between 115 patients, including money for a Wii Fit computer game and more than £1,000 on music lessons.

A spokesman said these were judged to help patients and “represent excellent value for the NHS.”

In Horsham, Crawley and coastal West Sussex, £2.6 million was spent on care packages for 44 people, the highest spend per patient of any of the CCGs.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Personal health budgets are designed to meet identified health needs in ways that give patients more control over the care and support they receive.

“The spending must be agreed between the individual and the NHS, meet the patient’s individual health needs and achieve the desired outcomes.

“An independent evaluation has shown that personal health budgets are cost effective, help people manage their health and improve quality of life.”