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PCT faces probe for ‘unauthorised’ payments to patients

Exclusive A bungling PCT faces a Department of Health probe after financial auditors found it had been doling out ‘unauthorised' payments to patients.

NHS Telford and Wrekin has been reported to the Department of Health for spending taxpayers' money ‘in breach of the intentions of Parliament' after providing personal budgets to patients, despite not being part of a Government pilot scheme authorising them to do so. The pilots, which were launched last June and run until next year, gave eight PCTs the green light to ‘road test' direct payments for personal health budgets.

An Audit Commission report published this week revealed that auditors reported one PCT, later confirmed by Pulse to be NHS Telford and Wrekin, ‘as a result of the PCT making payments in respect of personal health budgets that it was not authorised to make, because it was not part of the pilot scheme'.

An Audit Commission spokesperson told Pulse: ‘In the case of Telford and Wrekin, the appointed auditor has... notified the DH about the issue. The matter is now for the DH to determine if any sanctions are necessary, and if so, what. The qualified regularity opinion is a statement that... money has been spent in breach of the intentions of Parliament.'

A spokesperson from NHS Telford and Wrekin said: ‘The PCT informed the Department of Health and Audit Commission of an error in issuing direct payments, when it was identified that these were unauthorised.'

‘The direct payments for continuing healthcare were issued to patients in good faith, that it was in the patients' best interests and to prevent disruption to their care package. As soon as the PCT was aware of the error, steps were taken to ensure patients received care packages according to national guidelines.'

The Department of Health declined to comment.

News of the PCT's blunder emerged as a new report found mental health service users are unconvinced of the value of personal budget shemes. The NHS Confederation report said that service users recognised the potential of personal budgets but did not feel that they would change 'deeply engrained clinical, organisational and managerial cultures' that impact care.