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Personal health budgets scheme forces mental health centre closure

A centre for people with serious mental illness run by charity MIND has been forced to close because of ‘drastic’ funding cuts resulting from the expansion of personal health budgets.

The Recovery and Wellbeing Centre, a day care centre in Basildon, closed in May after NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG diverted funding to develop personal health budgets for patients with mental illness.

The CCG said that personal health budgets give patients more ‘choice’, and they can be spent on services such as gym membership.

But GP leaders said that this ‘highlighted the consequences’ of allowing personal health budgets ‘to proliferate in an unplanned manner’.

The Government offered personal health budgets – which provide patients with their own budget to spend on care they feel would benefit them – to any patient on NHS Continuing Healthcare nationally last year, and it was rolled out to any patient with a long-term condition in April this year.

But this was despite pilots of the scheme drawing criticism after patients spent their budgets on items such as theatre tickets and frozen ready meals, and warnings from a leading think-tank that they would inevitably lead to NHS services being decommissioned.

NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG has since April introduced personal health budgets for people being cared for by secondary care mental health services, and in the six months after they are discharged.

However, managers at Basildon MIND said this has forced them to close the day centre, known as Valerie Lodge.

A post on the Basildon MIND Facebook page announced: ‘Unfortunately, since the implementation of Personal Health Budgets our funding has been drastically reduced, which has led to us being unable to continue this service.

‘We would like to thank everyone that has supported us over the years and we hope that you will continue to support the remaining services of Basildon MIND.’

According to local news reports, the charity lost up to £160,000 a year because of the new funding arrangements.

NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG said: ‘This is not and has never been about cutting services but rather making them work for local people.’

The CCG added that the ‘decision to close the Valerie Lodge Day Centre was taken by Basildon Mind’ and that other local mental health day service providers, including other Mind branches, had ‘taken a different approach’ to the changes, by ‘developing their services and identifying new funding streams’. 

It also said that offering the patients with mental health problems personal health budgets will mean they ‘have more choice and control over how the money allocated to their care and recovery is spent than ever before’.

The budgets ‘could include a gym membership to help someone with their depression, or a course to help get a person back into work’, it added.

However, local mental health campaigners warned the closure of Valerie Lodge would ‘undoubtedly’ lead to people ending up back in hospital.

One petition launched in a bid to stop the closure stated ‘the loss of support from Valerie Lodge resulting from these same changes will undoubtedly lead to more hospital admissions’.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC said the case ‘highlights the unintended consequences of personal health budgets in the way they can destabilise funding arrangements for other services and have an impact on patients at large’.

He added: ‘We have warned against the proliferation of personal health budgets on the grounds they are fragmenting services. It is vital that if the Government wants [them] they should not be destabilising existing services. By allowing personal health budgets to proliferate in an unplanned manner this is precisely the consequence that is likely to follow.’


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