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RCGP still concerned over personal budgets

Government must tackle challenges before personal health budgets rollout

Louise Prime

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Personal health budgets must not be allowed to generate new health inequalities, the Royal College of GPs has insisted. In its position statement, the College says that the Government has still not adequately addressed this and several other challenges, and must do so before it implements its plans.

The RCGP says that it “believes strongly in the importance of personalised care and shared decision making to deliver better patient outcomes”, and that it sees the potential for personalised health budgets to help realise significant benefits for some patients.

But it insists that before the Government fulfils its commitment to start rolling out personal health budgets across England from this October, it must address the remaining challenges:

  • achieving the appropriate balance of responsibilities for ensuring the clinical effectiveness and quality of services purchased
  • managing the impact of the introduction of personal health budgets on clinical commissioning group costs and on the financial sustainability of existing NHS services
  • setting appropriate budgets in line with the principle of the provision of comprehensive health services on the basis of clinical need, free at the point of use
  • ensuring that personal health budgets do not give rise to new health inequalities.

The College asserts that the Government must allow the opportunity for full evaluation and discussion of the outcomes from the pilot sites, and for conclusions to be drawn regarding the implications for future policy, before proceeding with the roll-out.

The statement goes on to recommend that patients should be asked to agree the outcomes of their care plan and the way in which their budget will be utilised to support these, with key carers also being kept informed (subject to patient consent).

It says also that GPs should review all personal health budget plans and ensure that their patients are fully informed of the potential risks and benefits; and that each CCG should have a clearly defined set of criteria for taking decisions on what treatments and services can be included within a personal health budget.

Lead author of the position statement, RCGP vice-chair Professor Nigel Mathers, said: “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.”

“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. We also need to be convinced that any potential risks have been mitigated.”

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