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Patients with long-term conditions may get personal budgets

By Nigel Praities

The Government has confirmed it is planning to give people with long-term conditions control over the costs of their care as part of the drive to increase patient choice.

The idea of offering ‘personalised budgets' for treatment was first raised as a cost-cutting measure that could empower patients with chronic diseases in a report published by the influential Health Services Management Centre published last year.

The Department of Health today confirmed the idea is being considered as part of the NHS Next Stage Review as a way of furthering the ‘choice' agenda for patients with long-term diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and motor neurone disease.

‘We are scoping the idea of individual budgets for people with certain long-term conditions where this would improve their care and quality of life,' said a spokesperson.

'If, once the review is completed, the Secretary of State decides that this is an idea to be pursued further; the next likely steps would be pilots and a wide consultation with all stakeholders.'

The spokesperson dismissed media reports that patients would be issued with cash or vouchers and said the budget would be restricted to NHS services.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the GPC, warned giving patients control over the costs of their care could have a 'destabilising effect' on the NHS.

'If a patient chooses to go further afield for treatment, their local hospital loses funding. Devolving funding decisions down to the level of individuals is potentially quite dangerous. It could effectively mean individual patients competing with each other for budgets,' he said.

The ‘choice' agenda sees it's first major success next month, with the majority of patients being referred to hospital able to choose where they wish to be treated through Choose and Book.

On the launch of the service, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said patient choice would personalise care and was an 'important driver of quality'.

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