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Health Bill promises direct payments for healthcare

OnMedica staff

Friday, 16 January 2009

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Pilots of patients being given their own health budgets have been given the green light today with the publication of the Health Bill 2009.

The government’s Bill will pave the way for patients to receive direct payments for healthcare, particularly people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or diseases such as Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease so they can choose what NHS services they want.

Similar budgets have been used in social care since the mid-1990s and were outlined in health minister Lord Darzi's High Quality Care for All: NHS Next Stage Review, published last summer.

Pilots of health personal budgets are now expected to begin later this year, promising patients more choice and greater control over the care they receive.

The Bill also places a legal duty on the NHS and its providers to have regard to the NHS Constitution, which will safeguard the principles and values of the NHS for the future, and sets out the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff.

The Health Bill also includes proposals to:

  • create new quality accounts that will help improve the quality of health services
  • introduce innovation prizes to encourage an enterprise and innovation culture within the NHS
  • increase powers of suspension to hold to account those who fail to meet the requirements of public office
  • establish a regime for unsustainable NHS providers to protect patients and staff from failing services
  • strengthen tobacco control to protect children and young people from the harm caused by smoking
  • reform pharmacy services to ensure that pharmacies are providing high quality services based on local needs.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said: “The Health Bill will strengthen the NHS - it will provide a legal framework for the vital reforms of the last few years, and especially those outlined in High Quality Care for All.

“People rightly have high expectations of the care the NHS offers, and they want more control over their own health - which is why the Bill will give more power to patients and drive up the quality of care.”

Lord Darzi said: “I'm delighted to have introduced this Bill, which is an important next step in the implementation of my review of the NHS. The measures in this Bill, such as quality accounts and innovation prizes, will help to ensure that the NHS is providing the highest possible quality of care to everyone.

“We consulted over 60,000 clinicians, public and staff and the clear and consistent message was that people want a greater degree of control and influence over their health and healthcare.”

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