A flagship government policy to give patients control of health budgets could exacerbate health inequalities, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.
In his speech last week at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, health secretary Andrew Lansley announced that personal health budgets would be available to 50,000 continuing care patients by 2014.
But the RCN said personal health budgets could lead to the “erosion of the principles of the NHS”.
The college’s head of policy Howard Catton said squeezed budgets in the NHS were tightening eligibility for continuing care.
He said giving patients control of budgets at this time would “take us closer to the place where patients will be arguing that they want to top up” state-provided care with their own money.
This would worsen health inequalities as richer people received better services, he said.
Meanwhile, a report from the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network has warned evidence that personal budgets improve outcomes, cost and patient experience must be produced before they are rolled out.