Health minister Ara Darzi moots individual budgets for health

Health minister Lord Ara Darzi yesterday signalled that the government may drop its opposition to extending individual budgets to healthcare.

In an interim report from his review into NHS care, Darzi, who is a practising surgeon, said he had been impressed by the individual budget pilots in social care and that services needed to allow users “increasingly to design their own tailored care and support packages”.

He added: “This could include personal budgets that include NHS resources.”

Individual budgets comprise funding from social care, Supporting People, disability facilities grant, community equipment services, Independent Living Funds and the government’s Access to Work Scheme. The government has so far opposed including health resources on the basis this would compromise the founding principle of the NHS, that healthcare should be free at the point of need.

But this argument was rejected in a paper in August by Birmingham University’s health services management centre, which said extending individual budgets to the NHS would promote choice and reflect the integration of health and social care.

The Conservatives have also backed the idea.

In his report, Darzi, who is developing a 10-year plan for the NHS, said groups of health and social care staff would be set up in each region to discuss how to improve care in eight sectors including mental health, long-term conditions, end of life care and children’s health.

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