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Wrong to let patients use budgets for treatments like homeopathy, says BMA

By Ian Quinn

The BMA has attacked controversial plans to allow patients to pay for services such as homeopathy if they are given personal control over their health budgets.

The body claims giving patients the rights to pay for non-proven treatments risks taking money away from core NHS care and should be stopped.

In its response to the official Government consultation on direct payments, which are currently being trialled across the country, although currently with notional rather than real budgets, the BMA also says the system risks undermining equality in the NHS in England and creating a new layer of bureaucracy.

‘We have concerns over the potential for the funding to be used to pay for inappropriate and/or non-evidence based services or treatments, particularly where these services/treatments are not ordinarily available on the NHS,' says the report.

‘This includes alternative and complementary therapies and non-NICE approved treatments,' it adds, claiming ‘such use of personal budget funding could be considered a waste of NHS resources.'

The BMA has urged the Government to consider limiting funds for personal budgets to services and treatments that GPs are currently able to refer to or prescribe.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘We believe in choice and flexibility for patients but these plans are worrying for a range of reasons.'

'Apart from the practical difficulties and added bureaucracy involved, direct payments would take us even further towards a model where healthcare is a commodity to be bought and sold rather than something to which people are entitled. These proposals potentially undermine the principle of equal access on which the NHS is based.'

Allowing patients to pay for unproven treatments will rob NHS of cash, the BMA has claimed Allowing patients to pay for unproven treatments will rob NHS of cash, the BMA has claimed