Some 350,000 more people in England could have access to their own individual health budget under government proposals that are now out for consultation.
Ministers are keen to extend the right to an individual health budget to five new groups of people, including patients who regularly access community mental health services, some people with a learning disability or autism, and wheelchair users with specific mobility or posture problems.
Some ex-armed forces personnel and people with ongoing social care needs who also access NHS services, could also be eligible in future under the changes.
Currently, only adults who have NHS continuing healthcare status and children with continuing care status — typically individuals with long-term complex needs — qualify for a personal health budget.
Announcing the consultation, minister for care Caroline Dinenage, said: “ These changes will put the power back into the hands of patients and their families, potentially allowing up to 350,000 extra people to take up a personal health budget if they so wish.
“This would not only improve quality of life and the care they receive, it will offer good value for money for the taxpayer and reduce pressure on emergency care by joining up health and social care services at a local level.”
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English pharmacy board, predicted the proposals would have little impact on pharmacy: “If you look at the new patient groups, there is a strong social care element; I don’t think medicines are part of it.”
The RPS has previously warned against including medicines in personal health budgets.
The consultation, which also looks at extending the offer of integrated health and social care budgets in appropriate cases, runs until 8 June 2018.