No takers for personal health budgets in Suffolk
12:01 07 January 2016
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.
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”.
“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”.