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Personal health budgets to be given direct to patient

Direct payments of personal health budgets will be trialled by eight Primary Care Trusts, giving patients with long-term conditions control over the services they receive.

The launch of the first direct payment scheme moves the trial programme started by the DH in 2009 into a new phase.

Previously, personal health budgets were held by a PCT or third party. Now PCTs will make direct payments to patients, allowing them to choose their own healthcare services in partnership with the PCT.

The funds may be provided as monthly direct payments, or as a lump sum for a significant purchase (such as a piece of equipment). The cost of direct payments will be borne out of existing funding streams – in most cases, from the relevant condition-specific budget.

The scheme is designed to help people with long-term conditions such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease, as well as those receiving end of life care or mental health treatment.

The direct payment pilot scheme is part of the previously established programme to test personal health budgets across 70 PCTs. More PCTs will be authorised to offer direct payments over the coming year, leading to a more general rollout.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: “This is an important step towards putting patients at the heart of everything the NHS does. Direct payments have real potential to improve the lives of individuals with long-term health needs by putting treatment choices in their hands.

“There is strong evidence from the social care sector that direct payments help achieve better outcomes, and give people more choice and control over the care they receive. It also encourages a more preventative approach.

“Direct payments will not work for everyone or for all patient groups or services, but we want to identify whether, for whom and how they could offer an opportunity to help achieve the best health and wellbeing outcomes.”

The authorised PCTs are: Doncaster, Eastern and Coastal Kent, Central London, Islington, Merseyside, Oxford, Somerset and West Sussex. The pilots will run until 2012.

Paul Burstow

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