Personal health budgets are being rushed into blind, warns BMA

 The BMA has warned against the proposed rollout of personal health budgets (PHBs) before doctors have received more information and evidence to support it.

The Department of Health plans to start allowing patients with long-term conditions to purchase NHS care packages from personal allowances.

According to a BMA survey, only 10% of doctors believe PHBs will improve clinical outcomes, while only 40% believe it will be cost-effective.

The rollout of PHBs follows a number of pilot programmes in 2009.

The BMA’s survey took responses from over 200 doctors. While 60% agreed that patients with long-term conditions should have more control over their care, 70% said they were not well informed about PHBs.

Only 20% supported the idea of PHBs, 10% thought it would improve patient outcomes, and 40% thought it would improve control of costs.

Dr Mark Porter (pictured), Chair of the BMA Council, said: “Doctors are yet to be convinced of the benefit of personal health budgets and have a number of doubts about their clinical and financial implications.

“Nevertheless, there is recognition that personal health budgets could have benefits for patients with long-term conditions. In principle, empowering individuals to play an active role in decisions around their care, in partnership with their doctors, offers a real opportunity to make the NHS more responsive to individual needs.”

He argued for a delay in the rollout of PHBs pending:

• an information campaign on PHBs for healthcare professionals

• more evidence to show the benefits of PHBs for patient outcomes

• procedures to ensure that PHBs are cost-effective.

“The BMA will seek to work with the government to make sure that patients get the best deal from any proposed introduction of personal health budgets,” Porter concluded.