NHS chiefs are aiming to increase the number of people receiving personal health budgets by 2,000% over the next five years under the Government’s drive to roll out the scheme to more patients with complex needs and multiple long-term conditions.
Under plans announced by the NHS England lead on implementing the budgets, as many as 100,000 patients will be given a lump sum to buy services as they see fit.
However, experts criticised the pace of the rollout when questions remained about the evidence behind the budgets and their impact on the rest of the health service.
It comes after Pulse revealed some areas were cutting existing services in order to fund the personal budgets, which can be spent on buying non-evidence based care, including holidays and summer houses
Despite this, the NHS England lead said the Government wants to ramp up the numbers of people holding a budget by between 1,000% and 2,000% by 2020.
Dr Sam Bennet, head of personal health budgets and integrated personal commissioning at NHS England said: ‘Our task looking forward is to start to map out what that looks like for each CCG and to start having those conversations about how we support that rollout over the next few years, through to a position where we need 50 to 100,000 people by 2020.’
He said that latest figures, voluntarily submitted by CCGs, showed around 4,700 people currently on personal health budget – of whom 3,700 were given direct payments.
Dr Bennet added that the aim was for more people to be given direct payments as ‘we know for the most part people who take their personal budgets as direct payments get better outcomes’.
However, Professor Peter Beresford, an expert in personalisation in social care from Brunel University, questioned the pace of the rollout when independent evidence to support the scheme was lacking.
He said: ‘The scale of the change that is being demanded that we should move from 4,700 – with less than 3,700 receiving direct payments – to 100,000 in less than five years, does not fit well with our politics of austerity.’
Professor Beresford called for a ‘fundamental review of the scheme, more independent peer-reviewed evidence and probably a change of direction’.
The controversy behind personal health budgets
A Pulse investigation last year revealed CCGs had allowed some individuals to buy non-evidenced based care such as aromatherapy, holidays and a summer house.
At the same time, traditional services were having to be closed.