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Personal health budgets - a necessity or a luxury?

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It has been revealed by the medical publication, Pulse, that NHS clinical commissioning groups have funded unusual items such as a SatNav, Wii games consoles and a vacuum-cleaning robot under the NHS personal health budget scheme. The scheme was designed to give patients, who require continuing care, more control over the help they get from the NHS, although their proposed budgets have to be agreed with local NHS teams.

The scheme has also been used for music and horse riding lessons, the former costing the NHS in Stoke more than £1,000 a year for one patient.

The clinical commissioning groups named in the article have defended the items explaining that the cost of a Wii games console, to help with rehabilitation, is much less than the other option of a gym membership. In addition, music lessons were successful in reducing the amount of support a patient with mental health problems required.

There is an argument to say that spending on items that could be deemed to be a luxury is unreasonable in this age of austerity and NHS funding pressures, however, if it can be shown that the personal health budgets are being used cost-effectively and improving the health of patients, then the scheme surely must continue.  

By Gemma Crompton, trainee solicitor in clinical negligence