Vulnerable patients to be offered own personal health budgets

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The head of the NHS has stated that vulnerable patients are going to be able to obtain funds for their own treatments in a bid to keep them out of hospitals.

Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, said that from April disabled children, the elderly, the mentally ill and individuals with learning difficulties will be able to gain control of their own budgets to spend on psychotherapy sessions, physiotherapists and carers.

The paper stated that most patients on this scheme are likely to receive in excess of £1000 from the local government budget and health service. Some of those with more complex needs will receive larger sums, but they will still have the right to free hospital and GP care.

He said that in excess of five million people may be using this system by 2018, which will be funded by billions of pounds of public money. His intention is to use these funds to improve the quality of care the groups receive as this is currently fragmented and has suffered due to funding cuts at local authorities.

Patients would not receive the money directly, but will have control over how it is allocated once a care plan has been agreed with their doctors.

Mr Stevens became the head of the health service during April when he replaced Sir David Nicholson. He is set to outline his plan to the Local Government Association conference shortly.

The plan has received immense support from charities, however experts have called on Government to ensure that patients receive the correct information to allow them to make proper decisions for their particular needs.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society has welcomed the news and said that the pooling of health care personal budgets is a huge step forward for integrated care and health for those living with dementia. He said the current system is fragmented and often not user-friendly and for this plan to be successful, the structural problems within the system need to be fixed first. In the UK one in three people over 65 years old will develop dementia, which means that their needs should be at the core of the social care and NHS system.

The executive director of Which?, Richard Lloyd, said that personal budget will bring empowerment to patients and allow them more control of their choices in health and social care. However, the Government will have to offer a high standard of information and advice to these people to allow them to make the most suitable decisions for their requirements.

Image Credit: Beshef

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