7 practical suggestions to help Personal Health Budgets succeed for everyone

This week, ahead of the publication of a joint 3-year longitudinal study with OPM and Essex County Council evaluating the impact of Personal Budgets, I sketched out 7 very practical lessons that the current Personal Health Budgets work can take from the social care arena. This is cross-posted from OPM’s blog here.

Personalisation – and Personal Budgets in particular – are making a positive difference in the lives of lots of different people of different ages and impairment groups.

This finding comes from 3 years of work ecdp, OPM and Essex County Council have done in Essex, following 29 people on Personal Budgets, the first “longitudinal” study of its kind.

Older people, people with learning disabilities and people with physical and/or sensory impairments have all reported positive outcomes from using a Personal Budget, such as:

  • Improved quality of care through increased choice and control. This included more choice and control over the providers used to deliver services, and more consistent, flexible or personalised care
  • Improved wellbeing and the ability to live a fuller life
  • Increased independence and dignity for service users
  • Increased confidence, self-esteem and sense of empowerment.

Of course the road to successful outcomes through personalisation and Personal Budgets has not always been smooth. But in recording the lessons learnt – including the occasions when things didn’t quite work and key recommendations for making these processes run more smoothly – the final report tells us how to continue to make personalisation and Personal Budgets as good as they can be.

The challenge of personalisation and Personal Budgets in social care has been considerable. It will be even more of a challenge to introduce Personal Health Budgets in the health service. It’s a challenge I have every confidence will be met though, and that will therefore make a considerable difference in the choice and control people have over their healthcare.

To help things along, here are the 7 very practical suggestions taken from the 3-year study that it would be worth those working on Personal Health Budgets keeping in mind.

  1. It’s very unlikely someone will choose to have a Personal Health Budget if they don’t know about their existence. Make sure you let them know.
  2. It is not possible to exercise choice and control if someone doesn’t know what options they have with their Personal Health Budget. Make sure you let them know their options.
  3. It is entirely possible to forget to tell someone how much money they have available in their Personal Health Budget. Don’t forget to tell them.
  4. It is entirely possible that someone can get good advice and guidance about Personal Health Budgets from health professionals. But it’s just as possible they can get that advice and guidance from someone independent. Make sure they have this option if they want it.
  5. It is possible you’ll think a website will provide someone with all the information they need about Personal Health Budgets. It really, really, really won’t. Face-to-face contact, peer support, sources of information in the local community (such as voluntary sector organisations): these should all also be part of the information mix.
  6. It is possible that holding a budget to meet healthcare needs is second nature to some people. But most likely, for the majority, it won’t be, particularly if they consider employing their own staff. Ensure support options for managing money and employing people are in place.
  7. Finally, it is inevitable that assessing someone’s needs, establishing the level of financial resources this correlates to, describing the options they have available, planning and summarising how to meet these needs, signing it all off and putting the new system into place – is a complex process with many, many complicating factors. If people know it’s going to be a complex process, they’ll probably understand. Manage people’s expectations about how long the process will take, be honest about some of the common pitfalls and reassure them it will be worth it in the end (because, as we’ve seen, it most likely will be).

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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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