Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

Personal health budgets: surplus of cash or deficit of ideas?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 10 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8329
  1. Krishna Chinthapalli, clinical fellow
  1. 1BMJ, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. kchinthapalli{at}

Krishna Chinthapalli answers the key questions about personal health budgets

What are they?

Personal budgets were first introduced for social care in 1997 and are used by over 125 000 people in England.1 Local councils give users a means tested sum of money to spend on care of their choice, as an alternative to existing social care packages. The Department of Health now wants to use personal budgets in healthcare, initially for people who need long term NHS community care.

In social care, the sum of money is given directly to users and can be used as they wish. Although direct payment may be offered to some users of NHS personal budgets, for others the primary care trusts or clinical commissioning groups will hold the budget and approve or reject users’ plans for the money.

Why is this in the news?

Lord Darzi’s 2008 review, High Quality Care For All, first mentioned personal health budgets “to give individual patients greater control over the services they receive.”2 Since 2009, they have been piloted in 64 primary care trusts for people with long term conditions and for preventive measures, maternity care, and end of life care.

A three year study of the pilot schemes was published on 30 November, and on the same day Norman Lamb, the care minister, announced that the Department of Health would spend £1.5m (€1.8m; $2.4m) on rolling out the scheme to …

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