The NHS is piloting personal care budgets, to give patients with long-term conditions greater control of their treatment.
Health minister Mike O'Brien recently told MPs that PCTs could commission third parties, such as social enterprises, to support patients in developing and agreeing their care plans.
Patients ‘may want to use another organisation either to manage the budget itself or to provide access to particular kinds of care’, he explained.
A DoH spokesman said ministers were encouraging PCTs to develop ‘innovative and creative’ models for personal health budgets.
‘PCTs can work with voluntary organisations, social enterprises or private companies to explore ways to deliver personal health budgets,’ he said.
The move could mean that private companies help patients to plan and 'buy' their care from the NHS.
Some firms already support PCT commissioning work through the DoH framework for procuring external support for commissioners.
Dr David Jenner, GMS lead at the NHS Alliance, said this could create conflicts of interest, if firms also provided clinical services to the NHS.
‘There are also concerns about firms taking a margin out of budgets meant for vulnerable people,’ he added. ‘If companies manage the budget they would be taking a profit.’
- Read this week’s GP dated 10 July for the full version of this story.
- Editors' Blog - Times are tough - so don't give patients personal budgets