‘Personal budgets’ for patients to shape care

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Tens of thousands of patients will be able to get cash from their doctors for “personal health budgets” which can be used for activities including singing lessons and other hobbies, it has been announced.

Patients will have access to the budgets which give them more choice and control over the care they receive, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said.

Ministers have decided to roll the scheme out after a successful pilot. During this, one patient who suffered from depression used the budget to pay for a therapist and to begin a dress-making hobby. Another who suffered from chronic lung disease used the money for singing lessons.

A male patient with motor neurone disease used his personal budget for a modified bicycle and a gym membership. Other patients used the scheme to employ carers to look after them at home.

The budgets will allow patients to have more control over the treatment they receive instead of simply getting care set out by the NHS.

Patients will be able to access the budgets through their local NHS. They will have to work with clinicians to decide how the money would best be spent to benefit their health.

Ministers are investing £1.5m in the hope that by 2014, it will be available to 56,000 people on the NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme – an initiative for patients suffering from complex medical conditions who require a lot of care and support.

“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,” Mr Lamb said.

“It’s inspiring to hear the human stories of success that these budgets have brought to people.”

Julie Stansfield, chief executive officer of charity In Control, which pioneered the concept of personal budgets in social care, said: “We have seen a variety of people receive a personal budget and witnessed what a positive difference this has made to their lives.”