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No takers for personal health budgets in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 12:01 07 January 2016

Doctor treating patient (stock image)

Doctor treating patient (stock image)

Archant

A much-heralded initiative intended to give patients more control over their health treatment was not used at all during its first year in Suffolk – despite claims it improves people’s choice and quality of life.

Doctor consulting with patient (stick image)Doctor consulting with patient (stick image)

The county’s two clinical commissioning groups confirmed they had no patients make use of personal health budgets in the 
12 months following their nationwide introduction in October 2014. They have pledged to increase awareness so every eligible patient knows they have the right.

The scheme allows patients with long-term conditions to access NHS budgets and have greater control over the healthcare they receive. It is part of a wider drive to personalise health and social care and examples of uses include patients employing a carer, accessing therapy or buying new equipment.

North East Essex CCG said four patients made use of the budgets, spending £117,486 in total to fund treatments such as hydrotherapy, personal assistants and music therapy, as well as access to the zoo.

The scheme was rolled out nationally following pilot trials, which found they were cost-effective, improved people’s quality of life and reduced hospital admissions.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, speaking as a health minister at the time, said: “It’s inspiring to hear the human stories of success that these budgets have brought to people.”

Both Suffolk CCGs held a public awareness event in Bury St Edmunds in October 2014 and publicise the scheme on their websites. Although no explanation has been offered as to why there has been so little uptake in Suffolk, a national survey carried out last year indicated less than half of patients felt they would have the knowledge to be able to make decisions on how to spend such a budget.

A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs said both groups were “committed to putting patients at the centre of their care”.

Healthwatch Suffolk's chief executive Andy Yacoub.Healthwatch Suffolk's chief executive Andy Yacoub.

“Personal health budgets enable people with long-term conditions to have greater choice and control over the care they receive,” he added.

“We support their delivery and are working with patients and our health partners to further increase awareness, so that every patient who receives NHS Continuing Healthcare funding knows they have the right to a personal health budget.”

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, added: “As the aim of personal health budgets is to give people greater choice and control over the care they receive, we consider that people should always be fully informed and made aware of their right to a personal health budget, where appropriate.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he thought personal health budgets were a “very good idea”.

“I would very much hope that our local CCGs are ensuring that everyone eligible can take up a personal health budget if they want to,” he added.

A spokesman for North East Essex CCG said it made a commitment to consider all requests for personal health budgets from patients, “where it will improve their health and social care outcomes”.

Firefighters worked overnight to quell the flames of a blaze involving 500 tonnes of straw on farmland between Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket.

A man in his late 20s has been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after he crashed his car in Ipswich.

A woman in her 30s was rushed to hospital after two men dressed in black hoodies threw a mystery liquid into her face during a “random” attack.

The family of Corrie McKeague will today be out on the streets of Bury St Edmunds talking to members of the public to mark the year anniversary of his disappearance.

A teenager who had to be freed from the wreckage of a car by firefighters following a crash in Essex today is fighting for his life in hospital.

As the deadline for Stars of Suffolk nominations approaches, organiser Mick Parker is looking ahead to the “emotional and wonderful” annual ceremony that brings together the county’s unsung heroes for one night of celebration.

An 18-year-old woman who went missing from her home in Essex has been found safe.

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