Delay to Personal Health Budgets Called for by RCGP

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is calling for the brakes to be put on the scheduled release of personal healthcare budgets, as although they back the aim of the project, they still have apprehensions about the execution and potential for inequalities.

Pilot schemes comprising of roughly half the primary care trusts across England are presently in progress to test personal health budgets in the NHS, where patients are allotted a certain amount of money to use for their own healthcare in whichever way that best suits them.  Results of the pilot schemes are anticipated later in the year.

The government has already announced, however, that personal health budgets will be available to patients in receipt of continued care by 2014, and everyone else will be eligible the following year.

The Royal College of General Practitioners, however, have called on the Department of Health to postpone the roll-out until a ‘thorough analysis’ of risks and benefits of the budgets can be made founded on the results from the pilot sites.

According to the Committee’s position paper, while they believe that personal health budgets could provide “significant benefits in personalised care” and allow for patients shared decision-making, their execution “poses challenges that have not yet been addressed by the government.”

In a letter to Paul Burstow, the Care Services Minister, they ask the government to address the risks they have outlined prior to the budgets being rolled out.

The RCGP commented that there are concerns surrounding the “appropriate balance of responsibilities for ensuring the clinical effectiveness and quality of services purchased,” in addition to how the impact of the introduction of personal health budgets on Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) costs and on the financial sustainability of existing NHS services will be controlled.

Also, the committee added that the setting of appropriate budgets “must be in line with the principle of the provision of comprehensive health services on the basis of clinical need, free at the point of use,” and stressed that the government must ensure that personal health budgets do not create additional, new health inequalities.

The Royal College of General Practitioners also urged doctors to assess all personal health budget plans and guarantee that their patients are fully informed of the potential risks and benefits.

Backing personalised care

“We believe very strongly in the importance of each patient having personalised care and an opportunity to be involved in making decisions in partnership with their GP,” commented RCGP Vice-Chair, Professor Nigel Mathers.

“Personal health budgets could potentially realise great benefits for our patients – but we want the government to work with us to ensure that it gets the policy framework for implementation right and that the lessons from the pilot sites are learnt, [and] we also need to be convinced that any potential risks have been mitigated,” he added.

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