Tens of thousands more people will receive personal health budgets in the next five years, many of which will be used to purchase high-end manual and powered wheelchairs from private providers.
Around 40,000 people currently benefit from the scheme, which is designed to offer individuals more choice in the type of care they receive from the NHS, but access to the system will increase to 200,000 by 2024, it was announced today.
That’s because wheelchair users who access aftercare services under the Mental Health Act will soon have a right to a personal health budget to choose their own tailored care support.
Personal health budgets replaced the wheelchair voucher scheme last year and have been trialled across various CCGs.
A personal health budget, which includes personal wheelchair budgets, is an amount of money to support a person’s health needs and is agreed between the person and local commissioners. It is not new money, but a different way of spending health funding to meet a person’s needs.
They mean that disabled people are given more freedom to choose the type of wheelchair and equipment they have and are supported to purchase their own, more suitable chair privately, which is often higher-end and better suited to their clinical and social needs.
This is good news for dealers, according to NHS chiefs who suggested the new system could potentially drive greater demand for higher-end, modular equipment from private providers.
Personal health budgets are planned and agreed between individuals and clinicians, giving people greater choice, flexibility and control over their health and care support.
They have proved successful and cost-effective in helping people with complex needs stay independent for longer, according to the government.
This has been shown to improve wellbeing, join up local health and social care services and help reduce pressure on emergency care.
While the new system has been generally welcomed across the mobility industry there has been some concern that the new personal wheelchair budgets could turn out to be a ‘rebranding exercise’.
NHS teams have been busy trying to rally support for the new budget system across industries, including the mobility sector.
Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, said: “I’ve seen first-hand how personal health budgets can give people a new lease of life, granting them the ability to enjoy their lives to the full.
“These budgets help to join up health and social care services, improving people’s experiences and outcomes whilst ensuring value for money for taxpayers.
“We are therefore extending access so many more people can benefit, a key part of our NHS Long Term plan which will see personalised care become the norm for millions more.”
The move is part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s aim to expand personalised care which will be rolled out to 2.5m people by 2024 via measures including personal health budgets.
James Sanderson, NHS England Director of Personalised Care, said that the NHS’s Long Term Plan will see more than 2.5m people benefit from havingmore choice and control over their health, wellbeing and treatment.
He said: “Dealing with long-term health problems means moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, and towards more tailored care, with 1,000 social prescribing workers in GP surgeries, closer working with voluntary groups and most importantly asking patients what support they need to live independently and well.”
Last year, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England consulted on extending the right to a personal health budget. The consultation revealed strong support with nearly nine out of 10 respondents indicating their support to the proposals.