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BMA: Personal health budgets must be delayed

The BMA has called for a delay in the rollout of personal health budgets because of a lack of knowledge among doctors about what they are.

Personal health budgets are intended to give patients with long-term conditions a budget to purchase care packages from the NHS, using public money.

The Government has committed to extending the right to ask for a personal health budget to ‘all those who would benefit from one.’

But pilots of the scheme have proved controversial after patients were allowed to purchase theatre tickets, manicures and complementary therapies.

The RCGP said it wanted to work more closely with the Government earlier this year on setting up a stricter policy framework for the scheme, as it was concerned it could widen health inequalities.

The BMA has now joined the RCGP in calling for a cautious approach to the further rollout of the scheme – which the Department of Health has committed to.

An online BMA survey of 200 doctors and found that 70% said they were ill-informed about the initiative and only one in ten respondents said personal health budgets will improve clinical outcomes.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: ‘Doctors are yet to be convinced of the benefit of personal health budgets and have a number of doubts about their clinical and financial implications.

‘It is particularly concerning that there appears to be a real lack of knowledge amongst doctors about this significant Government policy so close to a potential roll out.’

In principle, doctors were in favour of patients having more power over their care, Dr Porter said. However, this would only work if the doctors themselves were more informed, he added.

He added: ‘If patients are to feel fully supported, roll out of personal health budgets should be delayed so that the NHS can carry out a wide ranging information campaign that informs doctors and other healthcare professionals about this proposal.

‘More evidence must also be presented outlining the benefits of PHBs on patient outcomes, and more work needs to be done to ensure that procedures are in place to make sure PHBs are cost effective.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘An independent evaluation of the personal health budget pilots is due to be published soon. This and the wider learning from the pilot programme will inform the future direction of personal health budgets.

‘We know that more information for doctors and patients will be crucial if personal health budgets are to be rolled out following the independent evaluation, and we will look carefully at the findings of this survey.’