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Nurses fear cut in face to face time with patients

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Community psychiatric nurses fear the introduction of personal health budgets will cut the amount of face to face time they spend with patients, a survey has revealed.

The government wants to see personal health budgets – where patients are allocated an amount of money and can choose how to spend it – rolled out across the country from October 2012.

However, a survey of 645 frontline mental health professionals, including 147 nurses, found they currently had little enthusiasm for their implementation, though they supported the idea in principle.

In particular they have a high level of concern about the extra paperwork created by the need to assess, plan and manage the budgets, according to the research by NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network and the National Mental Health Development Unit.

Almost three quarters of nurses surveyed felt this would be the biggest barrier to the successful implementation of the scheme. Many already had experience of using personal budgets in social care, where it is estimated face to face time has been reduced by as much as 25%.

One community psychiatric nurse told researchers: “What will happen is we will move further on the road to being social care bureaucrats orchestrating people’s access to services. We won’t be clinical staff.”

The other main concern raised by respondents was a perceived absence of evidence that patient choice delivered through personal health budgets would improve health outcomes.

The network is calling for the government to spend longer evaluating the existing pilots of the scheme before a national roll out. Its director Steve Shrubb said: “Although this will take a little more time, it is essential to make personal health budgets a reality.”

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