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Personal Health Budgets fund holidays and a summer house, investigation finds

1 September 2015

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Personal Health Budgets, designed to give eligible patients more flexible personalised care, have been spent on items such as a family holiday or summerhouse, a new investigation found.

On 4 September 2014, NHS Patient Participation Team released guidance on budgets, stating that where direct payments are provided, all care plans must be formally reviewed as a minimum within three months of the person first receiving the direct payment. Following this, reviews should be held at appropriate intervals, but must occur at least annually.

Personal health budgets were piloted across England between 2009 and 2012. One of the central findings of the evaluation was that personal health budgets led to an improved quality of life and a reduction in the use of unplanned hospital care. Benefits were particularly evident for people with high levels of need.

However, the budgets have been used to buy aromatherapy, singing lessons and Wii Fit computer games consoles, the investigation by our sister title Pulse found. Other patients have even been allowed to purchase summerhouses, holidays and hire pedalo boats with NHS cash.

NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Corby CCG spent a joint total of £2.55m on personal health budgets for 161 patients in 2014/15, including a family holiday, to allow a patient to ‘re-establish relations’ with their children and the construction of a summer house to give a patient ‘their own space’.

A spokesperson from the CCG told Pulse it provides the budgets to patients ‘in respect of achieving outcomes that focus on improving an individual’s health and wellbeing and allowing that individual to take control of how those outcomes are achieved. All personal health budgets are clinically agreed and monitored’.

This month, NHS England is holding a series of roadshows for a ‘development programme to support [CCGs] in expanding their offer of personal health budgets in 2015-16’.

CCGs in England predict spend of more than £120m this year for 4,800 patients on the personal health budgets scheme.

But an NHS England spokesperson said: “Personal health budgets are designed to meet identified health needs in ways that give patients more control over the care and support they receive. The spending must be agreed between the individual and the NHS, meet the patients’ individual health needs and achieve the desired outcomes.”