The DoH is currently consulting about the viability of allowing patients in England to have a say over how the money allocated for their care is spent.
Karen Jennings, Unison head of health, said: ‘Patients should have the right to a greater say over their treatment, but handing over cash and leaving them to ‘pick and mix' their care is not the way forward.
‘We are totally opposed to this policy because it could easily pave the way to means-testing, patient top-up fees for services, or greater barriers to treatment for those who most need it. Particularly at a time of tightening economic conditions, when budgets on spending on health services may be cut, direct payments are a risk not worth taking. Unison believes they could prove damaging to the NHS and to individual patients.
‘Choosing the most effective treatment from a range of options is not an easy decision for patients. There is always a possibility that if a patient exhausts their budget, either they will have to top-up their care, or the NHS will be left to foot the bill. Neither of which is acceptable.
‘Direct payments would have massive implications for workforce planning, NHS budgets, for a two-tier NHS and for staff training and development. They are taking the NHS in the wrong direction.'
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