Pilots extending direct payments to healthcare patients will be launched in England under the government’s Health Bill.
The scheme aims to give NHS patients the same control over budgets enjoyed by service users in social care since the mid-1990s.
The bill, based on proposals by health minister Lord Ara Darzi in his review of the NHS last year, will go to the House of Lords in the next few months.
The Department of Health has also announced plans to reform the adult social care complaints system, following an admission by former care services minister Ivan Lewis last year that current procedures were unfair on self-funders.
The bill will enable people who pay for their own care to complain to the local government ombudsman, matching the rights of state-funded service users. At present, self-funders can only raise concerns with the care provider itself.
Scheme would “revolutionise” healthcare
The shift towards direct payments in healthcare was welcomed by the NHS Confederation, which represents more than 95% of providers in the NHS.
The body published a report, Personal Health Budgets: The shape of things to come?, which argues that rolling out the policy nationwide would “revolutionise” the delivery of care and improve outcomes for patients.