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Further evaluation of personal health budgets needed, says NICE chief



NICE should evaluate the personal health budget scheme before it is rolled out more widely, its chief executive has said.

Speaking at the NICE annual conference today, Sir Andrew Dillon said he ‘did not know’ whether personal budgets were ‘the most effective use of resources’ and that they should be evaluated and tested ‘like any initiative that takes place’.

The comments come after a Pulse investigation recently revealed that personal health budgets were being used to fund non-evidence based treatments such as holidays abroad or pedalo boating.

As it stands, NICE is not evaluating the personal health budgets following ‘a decision that’s been made by those with political stewardship for the health and social care system’, Sir Andrew said.

He told the conference: ‘Whether or not me getting a budget if I develop a long-term disabling condition like rheumatoid arthritis… so I can influence my care is the most effective way of using resources, I really don’t know.

‘It should be evaluated. It should be tested like any of the initiatives that take place.’

In the light of the Pulse investigation, the BMA has called for a review of the scheme, which was initially piloted and rolled out among patients with severe physical or mental disabilities but is now available to any patient suffering a long-term health condition.

Sir Andrew made his comments under questioning from former GP and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond who strongly advocated that the scheme go through an evaluation.

Dr Hammond said that in his view, ‘rolling out personalised budgets for health and social care’ was ‘potentially… the most destructive innovation for empowering patients’ and that ‘clearly it needs to be properly evaluated [by] NICE’.

Sir Andrew’s response also highlighted that it was ‘hugely important that patients have influence about what it is we get’.

Since April this year, adults and children on NHS continuing healthcare have a right to a personal health budget, but CCGs are free to offer them to other people with long-term conditions if they think they will benefit from it.

It is the Government’s long-term aim to introduce a right to a personal health budget for anyone who would benefit from it.

NHS England insists the budgets offer patients greater control over their care at the same time as saving the NHS money.