The Guardian reports that NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens will announce the handing over of health service and town hall budgets to the most vulnerable patients to enable them to buy the services they require in the community. The scheme will start from next April and will be targeted at frail elderly people, disabled children and those with serious mental illness or learning disabilities, who will be able to buy the health and social care services they need, such as carers, physiotherapists and psychotherapy sessions, hopefully not using hospital services in the process. The majority of budgets will be around £1,000 but more will be available for those with the most complex needs. Payments will not be made directly to the patient’s bank account, but the focus will be on controlling the budget, after a care plan is agreed with the patient’s doctors.
Personal Health Budgets are currently available to people receiving Continuing Healthcare, which is home-based social care made available following a needs assessment process.
Stevens expects more than five million people to have a personal health budget by 2018, adding that this move would see significant patient empowerment, bring care closer to home and result in savings. The joined up health and care budgets are also expected to reduce hospital admissions, which have risen substantially since local councils had their budgets cut, resulting in a decrease in service availability. The policy will require CCGs and local councils to work together and will be implemented on a voluntary basis, although Stevens will express his hope that the two bodies will work together to make the policy a reality.