People with continuing healthcare needs will have the right to request a personal health budget by April 2014, health secretary Andrew Lansley has told the Conservative Party conference.
The move would help personalise the NHS and further integrate health and social care, said Lansley. However, health commissioners would have the right to refuse requests.
About 53,000 people receive continuing care at a cost of £2bn a year to the NHS in England; it is given to people whose need for long-term care is primarily the result of a health condition.
Personal health budgets, under which people with long-term conditions are allocated money to fund their healthcare, are due to be rolled out from October 2012 after the current pilot phase.
In the past, people have lost their right to direct payments after becoming eligible for continuing care because of the bar on the NHS making cash payments.
This should come to an end for many under the policy put forward today by Lansley.
“This is a solution that must come as part of a cultural shift for doctors, healthcare professionals, providers and patients which sees the patient as an equal partner in decisions about their care,” said Lansley.
The NHS Confederation welcomed the move but said the “cultural and practical barriers” to implementing personal health budgets had to be addressed.
“We need to address the fears of clinicians that it may be unethical to allow people to choose treatments and services with no evidence base yet these are exactly the things many patients want,” said chief executive Mike Farrar.
Help the Hospices and Alzheimer’s Society stressed the need for support services to be in place to help people manage personal health budgets to avoid over-burdening families.
“Managing a personal budget can be complex and time consuming, with patients and carers often having to research, negotiate and manage a variety of service providers,” said Jonathan Ellis, director of policy at Help the Hospices. “For personal health budgets to work, support services need to be in place to help people, for whom time may be precious, to navigate the system and make sure they have access to the best possible care and support at the end of life.”
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