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Independents' Day

BMA calls for review of personal health budget scheme following Pulse investigation

Doctor leaders have called for a review of the national personal health budget scheme, following Pulse’s revelation that millions of pounds of NHS funding were spent on luxury items and holidays.

Pulse’s investigation, based on information contained under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that the scheme, which is designed to give ‘patients more control over their care’ has been used to buy many unevidenced treatments at the expense of long-established services, which have been defunded.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that a review had to put ‘rigorous safeguards in place’ to ensure spending decisions are ‘consistent’ throughout the country.

He said that although the BMA had long expressed concerns over the scheme, Pulse’s investigation had ‘highlighted the very real problems’ with the scheme, especially in light of NHS funding pressues.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘NHS England should review the scheme to ensure there are no instances of inappropriate payments made and that there are rigorous safeguards in place to account for spending decisions and to ensure there is a consistent approach throughout England.

‘The BMA has consistently had concerns about the personal health budget scheme as it has the potential to lead to a greater fragmentation of the health service and, as we’ve seen with social care, runs the risk of taking us a step closer to user charges for patients who currently receive free care.

He added: ‘However on the specifics of the examples you’ve (Pulse) identified there is a risk that when we are highlighting the very real problems being created by the funding pressures facing the NHS, the public starts to question whether the NHS is spending their taxes wisely or fairly when they see individuals receiving items that they would normally expect to be bought themselves.’

As part of the investigation Pulse discovered that NHS Nene CCG and NHS Corby CCG gave patient funds to have a holiday to rest and reconnect with family, an iRobot, and the construction of a summer house while NHS Kernow CCG spent £2,080 on a patient’s aromatherapy, £248 on horse riding lessons and also spent money for a patient to hire a pedalo. Meanwhile NHS Stoke CCG spent money on a Wii Fit games console for a patient, and £1,000 on a patient’s weekly music lessons.

Since October last year, all eligible patients have had the right to hold a personal health budget, which enables them to spend NHS money as they wish. NHS England is enthusiastic about the scheme – the Five Year Forward View has even called for a ‘major expansion’ of the scheme to groups who may benefit, in particular people with learning disabilities and this month it is launching roadshows for a ‘development programme to support (CCGs) in expanding their offer of personal health budgets in 2015-16’.

However the scheme has been criticised by the BMA and others. Professor Nick Watson, professor of health and wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, described the scheme as ‘consumerist’.

But NHS England strongly defended personal health budgets, arguing that they gave patients more control over the care and support they receive.




Readers' comments (15)

  • Ahh! the beautiful realities of socialism!!

    Real need being replaced by peoples wants yet those wants are paid for by "someone else"!

    I often found, when i lived there, a hardcore of people "disgusted" by stories of excess from benefit recipients, not because of any moral outrage, rather because of the fact they felt others were getting one up on them by claiming for things they felt entitled to!!

    I also recall many times when people would justify their own pilfering of the system in order to make them feel okay.................i recall a rather rich pensioner asking for a paracetamol script because he was "entitled to it and it was quite right i gave it to him" rather than he pay the 20 pence for it over the counter....!!

    How many times have you seen a request for a note or letter changed by a patient when they realise they have to pay they need something up until the point they have to pay for it.

    Meanwhile the real needy are neglected......the gap between rich and poor wider than ever, children hungry and relying on food banks to get fed....... social mobility virtually non existent now.....

    But of course the malingerers will always think they need a free holiday or nintendo WI fit , as long as someone else pays for it

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  • Vinci Ho

    The way I see this is Tories know they are not to be trusted to deliver health services by the public(a well known but unpublicised truth) , the only way to gain 'popularity' is monetary measures, hence bribing its way right up to that. Like Michael J Sandel said in his book , What money can't buy, these economic/financial incentives will crowd out norms which ,in this case, are the core virtues of NHS. The 'new' theory and message that health actually can be 'bought' with money crowd out the norms of providing people the proper health education.
    Like everything else in the eyes of economists , health problems can be solved by economic , monetary measures.

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  • i see ... make a fuss about an issue that many of us are not interested about (i.e. not pension, not work load, not pay) to keep the cardigan wearers happy.

    how about standing up for us ? no, didn't think so.

    i'll be looking forward to see who will be honored this time for saving the NHS from the 'waste' of personal health budgets ...

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  • Well said Vince.

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  • Doctors have been under sustained attack from all sides; perhaps the BMA could try looking after our interests for once.

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  • WTAF. Is this for real? It doesn't sound like tory policy unless designed to end all things NHS

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  • Let's see - a person with severe learning disabilities who is self-harming and harming others due to high anxiety will cost the NHS about £4000 a week to "treat" in an ATU. When we say "treat" - what we really mean is for that person to be put under the chemical cosh, in a strange ward, surrounded by strange people who don't really know or understand that person's needs.

    Alternatively you can spend £1000 on a "summerhouse" - a separate space for the purpose of relaxation and fill it with relaxation/sensory objects that enable the person with severe learning disabilities to feel calm and less anxious and to stop self-harming and harming others.

    So which would be a better use of NHS money? £4000 a week under the chemical cosh or £1000 on a "summerhouse"? And what would be better for the patient's quality of life? The chemical cosh on a strange ward with strangers "treating" you? Or a relaxing "safe" space where the patient can lower their anxiety levels.

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  • Above poster,

    You are of course talking utter nonsense. Where is the proof summer house will sort out all the problem. You are insulting people with mental health illness if you think all they need is a place of relaxation.

    This site is for health professionals only as it clearly states. Please post somewhere else as you are clearly not a professional

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  • Dear above poster - how many hours a week have you spent working with patients with severe learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems in their own homes or day centres?

    And we're not just talking a 10 minute QOF assessment once a year to tick some boxes for money. Please do tell.

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  • BMA wakes up everytime something is pointed to it. Do you have no motivation at all to do anything apart from collecting subscriptions?

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