I am announcing the publication of the final independent evaluation report on personal health budgets, which have been piloted in the national health service since 2009 as a way to give people more choice and control over their care.
In summary, the results show that:
personal health budgets are cost-effective when implemented as the policy intended and patients have genuine control;
they improve people’s quality of life, well-being and feeling of being in control—but do not generally have any statistically significant effect on health status or clinical measures such as blood sugar levels for diabetics;
they may be more effective for people who are higher users of NHS services (such as people receiving NHS continuing health care) and those with mental health needs; and
they may reduce use of NHS services indirectly—particularly by reducing hospital admissions.
These are positive findings, which provide evidence for rolling out personal health budgets beyond the pilot programme. However, there is still much to learn about implementing personal health budgets for large numbers of people. This argues for a measured approach: setting a clear strategic direction of travel and supporting further learning as personal health budgets are scaled up.
In the light of the evidence, I can make a number of commitments.
First, the Government can confirm the ambitious objective set in the mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, that
“patients who could benefit will have the option to hold their own personal health budget, subject to the evaluation of the pilot programme, as a way to have even more control over their care”.
Secondly, we also reaffirm our commitment to introduce a right, from April 2014, for people receiving NHS continuing health care to ask for a personal health budget; the evaluation clearly suggests that personal budgets have benefits for this group of people.
Thirdly, we want to enable NHS commissioners across the country to offer personal health budgets, including through the option of a direct payment. Direct payments for health care are currently only lawful within pilot schemes, but the Health Act 2009 gave power to extend them nationally by order, with the approval of both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. We intend to bring forward proposals for this. To help inform the process, we will be launching a public consultation later this year on updating the regulations for direct payments. Meanwhile, existing pilot sites will still be able to offer direct payments, and will be able to act as early leaders in rolling out personal health budgets more widely.
Fourthly, we will be providing additional support to nine areas that are “Going Further, Faster”, pushing ahead with implementation on a larger scale and demonstrating how personal health budgets can be extended beyond NHS continuing health care. The Department will provide £1.5 million of funding to support early roll-out of personal health budgets in the period until April 2013, when responsibility will transfer to the NHS Commissioning Board.
Finally, we have also today launched a toolkit that is available to everyone who has an interest in personal health budgets. It contains a wide range of learning from the pilot programme, including practical advice and information to support the implementation of personal health budgets.
More information on personal health budgets, including the toolkit and stories of people who have budgets can be found on the personal health budgets learning network at: www.personalhealthbudgets.dh.gov.uk.
The evaluation report has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.