Pilot schemes providing personalised care for patients in the community were launched this week – amid concerns that they may lead to ‘top-up’ fees for particularly expensive services or procedures.
The Department of Health announced the new approach to caring for patients in the community, which it hopes will lead to more collaboration between the NHS, social services, private and voluntary organisations.
Personalised care will mean that patients will get to choose from a list of services, which have been drawn up following a comprehensive assessment, most likely from a community nurse.
However unions have raised concerns that personal budgets will be introduced by the back door – leading to a system of ‘top up’ fees if there is a shortfall.
A motion at Unison’s Health Group Conference later this month will raise concerns about whether personalised care will improve services, or lead to an erosion of the NHS as a service free at the point of use.
The motion states: ‘Conference is concerned that this will merely result in commissioners providing a long list of inadequate options rather than providing sufficient resources to enable health workers to develop on a one-to-one basis with their clients, genuinely personalised care.’
But Sharon Lee, community matron at NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent, said: ‘If you do a full assessment from the outset and identify what these patients need you can provide them with the right budget. It is no different from the direct payment system in social care.
‘Patients’ needs change over time so you then need to do regular assessments to make sure their needs are being met and the budget is correct for the personalised care for that particular patient.’