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Reports says NHS patients should have Individual healthcare budgets

A report published by the University of Birmingham's Health Services Management Centre says that patients should be allocated a personal budget to pay for their healthcare directly.

A report published by the University of Birmingham's Health Services Management Centre says that patients should be allocated a personal budget to pay for their healthcare directly.

The interim report proposes a system of personalised budgets in the NHS to empower patients to take control of their care. Patients would have freedom to purchase services within the NHS or through private providers.

The report, entitled "Our Health, Our Care, Our Say - what could the NHS learn from individual budgets and direct payments?" was generated in collaboration with in Control, a UK organisation developing a system of care to enable patients to choose and control the services they use.

The authors suggest that any system of personalised budgets in the NHS would operate in a similar way to the Direct Payment model that has been used in social care for nearly a decade.

They add that personalised budgets may also help progress UK government plans to afford patients a greater say in their care and could help to remove some of the current funding inequalities in the NHS.

Dr Jon Glasby, the lead author of the report elaborated: "A system of direct payments is not about privatising health services, it is about citizenship and the right to be in control of your life. At present, people with more money can afford to supplement or bypass public health services."

"Creating a system of direct payments would offer similar opportunities to everyone. Under these plans health services would continue to be free, the idea is to give patients greater control over how they want to manage their health," added Glasby.

Direct payments were introduced to Social Care in the late 1990s allowing people to buy services and hire care staff. Despite concerns about how money might be spent, the system has led to considerable creativity and innovation.

The report authors go on to say that direct payments in the NHS could be piloted for people with long-term illnesses, as well as mental health and maternity services.

Glasby concluded: "The evidence shows that giving patients individual budgets can actually help save money. There is no reason why the same system shouldn't be successful in the NHS."

2nd September 2008

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