Personal health budgets 'could pay for holidays'

NHS managers may allow patients to use personal health budgets to pay for holidays if they can prove it will benefit their health.

Personal health budgets may stretch to non-standard use of NHS cash like holidays (Photograph: SPL)

Around half of PCTs are now piloting the schemes, which allow patients to directly manage a proportion of NHS funding spent on their care.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London on Wednesday, a PCT manager involved in one of the pilots said he would not rule out using NHS money for holidays.

Benedict Hefford, associate director of commissioning at Hammersmith and Fulham PCT, in west London, said: 'The default should be that you can do something if there is evidence of benefit.'

Mr Hefford used the example of 'Tom', a patient with COPD, who would be able to use a personal budget to replace carpets in his home and install air conditioning, which could improve his health.

But Sheffield GP Dr Paul Hodgkin asked: ‘What if Tom says he likes his carpet and he doesn't want air conditioning, but wants to go to Malaga for the winter?'

Mr Hefford replied: ‘It would put me in a difficult position, but I would not rule it out.'

Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, chairing the event, broadly backed such non-standard use of NHS cash.

One speaker mentioned the case of an MS sufferer who used NHS funds to buy a season ticket for a fellow football fan to accompany him to Rochdale matches.

Ms Hewitt said: ‘I bet it did him a lot more good than paying for day care.'

Andrew Sanderson, deputy director of the DoH policy support unit, told the conference that 77 PCTs had bid to take part in personal budget pilots. A total of 70 had been confirmed, with more than half piloting budgets for patients with long-term conditions.

Nearly as many were piloting budgets for patients needing continuing care, and others were piloting budgets with mental health or end of life care patients, he said.

Mr Sanderson said the DoH had given a ‘clear commitment' to supporting personal health budgets, and could hand patients a right to hold budgets in future.

King's Fund social care senior fellow Richard Humphries, however, pointed out that the pace at which personal budgets had been taken up in social care had been ‘glacial'.

He said that 10 years after legislation took effect to allow direct payments to social care users in 1996, just £2 in every £100 spent on adult social care was spent in this way.

The figure now was around 3%, he said, despite a target of 30% by March 2011.

He added that there were ‘no big flashing lights over personal budgets saying this is going to save shedloads of money'.

But he said there were signs that patients could be good stewards of the funding. He added that data showed younger patients with disabilities or those with mental health issues were likely to benefit, but older people were less likely to report improved psychological wellbeing after receiving direct payments.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

Medical centre sign

One in three GP practices in Northern Ireland faced serious closure risk in past 18 months

One in three GP practices in Northern Ireland have faced a serious risk of closure...

BMA sign

BMA warns Treasury 'many practices' will close without emergency financial support

GP leaders have urged the Treasury to agree emergency funding to support general...


Practices can use £172m PCN cash to support staff pay rises, GP leaders say

Practices can use their share of Β£172m from the 2023/24 investment and impact fund...

GP typing at computer

EMIS apologises for 'human error' that caused major GP IT system crash

EMIS has apologised to GP practices hit by a major system failure that left them...

GP consultation

GP practices delivering 10% more appointments per day compared with 2019

GP practices in England delivered 10% more appointments per working day in the first...

computer and stethoscope

Major IT system outage heaps pressure on GPs over bank holiday

A major IT system failure that left GPs across England unable to access patient records...