Ministers have given the green light to the rollout of personal health budgets to millions of patients, after their evaluation of pilot schemes showed they required additional investment, but were ‘cost neutral’ overall.
The Department of Health confirmed it would roll out the budgets to all 56,000 patients receiving continuing care and anyone GPs think need more flexibility and control over their care by April 2014.
The budgets have proved controversial after patients spent NHS funds on complementary therapies, theatre tickets and manicures, but the DH claims that they will put patients ‘back in control of their care’ and make £90m in savings from rolling out the £1.5m scheme.
The DH-commissioned evaluation concluded that significant additional investment would be required by CCGs if they are to roll out the scheme. The pilots increased total costs by 22%, with that money provided in addition to conventional NHS services.
The independent evaluation of the personal budget pilots – led by the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent – found there was a significant improvement in quality of life and the psychological well-being of patients and a reduction in hospital costs.
It also found patients used significantly more non-NHS services as result of using the personal budgets.
The evaluation found personal health budgets were cost effective, with a net monetary benefit of between £1,520 and £2,690 for the personal budgets group, compared with the control group, once the additional costs were taken into account.
The report concluded: ‘Personal health budgets were largely cost neutral, although there was substantial variation in the level and types of costs between participants.
‘For certain categories of expenditure, the personal health budget group had slightly lower costs than the control group after correcting for baseline differences.
‘This neutral result was found where we used the relatively conservative assumption that many personal budgets were provided in addition to conventional services.’
Health minister Norman Lamb said the report showed those with the greatest needs benefited most from personal health budgets.
He said: ‘Independent analysis has now shown that personal health budgets can put people back in control of their care and make a significant difference to their quality of life.’
The rollout is to go ahead despite opposition from the RCGP and the GPC. The RCGP warned earlier this year that personal health budgets should not be used for ineffective therapies.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the scheme would create ‘parallel services’ and questioned why they were being rolled out before CCGs took charge.
He added: ‘What it is that personal care budgets can achieve that patient sensitive commissioning cannot?’
What personal health budgets have been used for
· Complementary therapies, sport membership, holidays, talking therapies, stroke therapy, swimming, horse-riding
· Gym membership, personal training, exercise classes
· Season ticket, driving lessons, musical instrument
· Mobility scooter, travel to gym, travel for spouse to make hospital visits
· Fridge, freezer, blender
Source: Department of Health