Prime minister Gordon Brown yesterday signalled the government would end its longstanding opposition to extending individual budgets to healthcare.
In a speech on the NHS, he said that where appropriate, the extension of choice in healthcare could “include the offer of a personal health budget, giving patients spending power and thus a real choice of services”. It would most likely apply to people with long-term conditions.
The Conservatives already support the extension of individual budgets to healthcare, but the government has long opposed it, seeing it as violating the founding principle of the NHS – that care should be free at the point of delivery.
However, a report from Birmingham University’s Health Services Management Centre claimed it did not make sense to have individual budgets in social care but not health, given the closer integration of the two sectors.
And in October, health minister Ara Darzi raised the possibility of extending individual budgets to health in an interim report from his ongoing review into the NHS.