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Patients who blow personal budgets ‘will continue to receive care’

By Alisdair Stirling

Patients who spend all the money in their personal budgets will continue to receive NHS care, Pulse can reveal.

Ministers are to hand patients cash to pay for their own NHS treatment for the first time under controversial plans some GPs fear could intensify the financial pressures on the NHS.

A pilot scheme unveiled by health minister Paul Burstow will go further than the previous Government's personal budgets pilots, by giving patients with long-term conditions direct payments to cover their care.

But Pulse has learned patients who blow their budgets will continue to receive NHS care, with managers then expected to investigate the reasons for their money running out.

That could put GPs, who the Department of Health considers central to the programme, under pressure to explain why patients have exceeded their allotted budget.

The pilot scheme will be conducted across eight PCTs in a series of long-term conditions, such as COPD, dementia and diabetes, plus maternity and end-of-life care. It will run until 2012 and be evaluated by researchers at the University of Kent.

In the meantime, the DH will consider further bids from trusts PCTs across the country to trial direct payments, which are already available to purchase some forms of social care.

But the BMA has expressed concerns that personal budgets could be used to pay for non-evidence-based treatments such as homeopathy.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘GPs are crucial in developing a patient-focused NHS. They are ideally placed to support people in their healthcare choices.'

The spokesperson added: ‘If a patient ran out of money they would never be denied access to NHS care. The PCT will be responsible for reviewing why a patient ran out of money and respond accordingly.'

Dr Chris Mimnagh, a GP in Merseyside and medical director of NHS Knowsley, one of the PCTs where the direct payments are to be piloted, said the evidence so far was that handing patients budgets for their care was a ‘great success': ‘The idea that patients would blow the money on a 50-inch plasma screen TV just doesn't happen.'

Patients who exhaust their personal budgets will continue to receive NHS care, the Department of Health has confirmed Patients who exhaust their personal budgets will continue to receive NHS care, the Department of Health has confirmed

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