The roll out of personal health budgets (PHBs) has been announced today by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb.
A personal health budget is an amount of money given to someone, to help them design a package of care support from clinicians and others, giving them more control over the nature of the treatment provided.
Personal health budgets have been piloted at 20 in-depth sites for the last three years, and an independent evaluation of the pilot programme published today has found that:
- people’s quality of life had improved
- if half of the people eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare chose to take the offer of a budget, this could imply a potential saving of around £90 million
- the amount of times people had to attend hospital decreased overall.
The benefits seemed to be felt more strongly by people with the highest health needs. As a result, the rollout will initially target those who are currently getting NHS Continuing Healthcare. By April 2014 up to 56,000 people on the NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme will have the right to ask for a personal health budget. It is also hoped that clinical commissioning groups will offer a personal health budget to more people with a long term condition who may benefit.
The CHO attended an RCCM presentation recently where Dr Alison Austin, DoH Personal Health Budgets Team, NHS Policy Outcomes Group, talked about how PHBs had worked in practice during the pilot study. We were heartened to hear that complementary and alternative therapies featured in the pilot. It is our understanding that if a patient can show that they have been receiving benefit from healing, for instance, then there is a case for it to be covered under their care plan.
Obviously, patients need the right information to make informed decisions, and they have to agree their care plan with their local health provider. It stands to reason that when a patient is looking for a therapy, regulated practitioners, whether statutory or voluntary, will be in a good position.
The report says that PHBs "could be a vehicle to promote integration of social care and health care and that there is good potential for this."
The CHO sees this as a new chapter in the integration of healing and other complementary therapies within health and social care.