Hundreds of thousands of NHS patients to be handed cash to plan their own care
Hundreds of thousands of NHS patients will be given cash to plan their own treatments under new government plans.
A major expansion of “personal health budgets” will see patients given direct cash payments to determine their own treatment plan - after approval from their doctor.
Ministers are set to expand the number of people covered by the NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme from 23,000 people to 350,000, including patients with dementia and learning difficulties, and say the plans will “put power back into the hands of patients”.
The scheme, due to be expanded later this year as part of a wider shake-up of the health and social care sector, has received the backing of Jeremy Hunt and NHS chief Simon Stevens.
Care Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “If you have complex needs, our current health and social care system can be confusing, so it’s right people should be involved in the important decisions about how their care is delivered.
“These changes will put the power back into the hands of patients and their families, potentially allowing up to 350,000 extra people to take up a personal health budget if they so wish.”
“This would not only improve quality of life and the care they receive, it will offer good value for money for the taxpayer and reduce pressure on emergency care by joining up health and social care services at a local level."
But critics have warned that the budgets, which can be used to buy specialist equipment or enrol in exercise classes, have previously been blown on holidays and horse-riding.
Meanwhile Caroline Abrahams of Age UK told The Times that some patients had more pressing concerns than organising their own care.
“Older people in declining health with social care needs generally tell us they are not very interested in getting involved in organising the services they receive," she said.
"They just want them to be effective and joined up, and delivered by kind and skilful professionals.”
The new plans come after it emerged that 61% of adults said they were willing to pay more to save the struggling health service - up from 49% in 2016 and 41% in 2014.