Darzi unveils plan to test personal budgets in NHS

Health minister Lord Ara Darzi said today that personal budgets would be extended to healthcare services in a pilot for 5,000 people with long-term conditions, to enhance choice and control.

In his long-awaited report on reforming the NHS, Darzi said that, as with social care, the budget could be managed on the patient’s behalf or, in some cases, given as a direct payment. The move will require primary legislation and the intention is to roll it out nationwide.

Critics of the idea of extending personal budgets and direct payments from social care to health have warned that it could compromise the principle of NHS services being free at the point of need.

However, Darzi said that the programme would be underpinned by safeguards to ensure that no one was denied treatment as a result of having a personal budget and that NHS resources were put to good use, with appropriate accountability.

Integration between health and social care

Darzi also promised to pilot “integrated care organisations”, bringing together health and social care professionals from councils, hospitals and community health services, to make services more responsive to patients.

He also said that all primary care trusts and councils would jointly commission wellbeing and preventive services in six areas: improving mental health and sexual health, and tackling drug addiction, alcohol misuse, smoking and obesity.

The Department of Health also unveiled a draft NHS constitution today laying out the rights and responsibilities of staff, organisations and patients with regard to physical and mental healthcare.

Right to NICE-approved treatments

This will include the right for patients to access drugs and treatments approved by advisory body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

There will also be a right to choice over NHS services, to be treated with dignity and to redress for poor care.

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