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Personal health budget pilots set for summer launch

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Pilot schemes for personal health budgets are set to start this summer, Nursing Times understands.

Personal budgets are already in place for about 60,000 social care servicer users. Plans to pilot them for health care were announced last June as part of the NHS Next Stage Review.

Under the plans, patients – predominantly those with long-term conditions – could be given direct payments to purchase services, such as physiotherapy, from a list of providers. This will follow a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s needs, most likely carried out by a primary care nurse. 

The deadline for NHS organisations to submit applications to run one of the pilots, which are expected to run for three years, was 27 March. A Department of Health spokesperson told Nursing Times that 70 applications had been received. But the sucessful applicants are yet to be announced.

However, the proposals have raised concerns among unions, which have suggested patients may be forced to ‘top up’ their payments for services from their own savings should their personal budgets run out.

Last week delegates at the Unison Health Group Conference in Harrogate passed a motion unanimously opposing the implementation of personal health budgets.

But, speaking to Nursing Times, 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.

‘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,’ she added.

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