General practitioner England

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Personal health budgets spent on singing lessons

The use of personal health budgets should be reviewed after a report finds they have been used to purchase luxury items.

BMA GPs committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey urged the Government to look into PHBs (personal health budgets), after an investigation revealed that some patients had spent money allocated by their CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) on non-clinical treatments, such as a summer home, singing lessons and computer game consoles.

Dr Vautrey said financial pressures in the health service meant it was vital funding was not ‘frittered away’, adding that inappropriate use of funds could impact on other services.

‘Giving patients a greater say on their healthcare is a desirable aim, but we remain concerned that the implementation of PHBs risks destabilising services, could leave some patients without access to care and is not delivering clear clinical results,’ he said.

‘If a small number of people use their PHBs inappropriately it could have a big impact on existing services, such as local mental health services.

‘These often work within very limited budgets and so the diversion of even a small amount of their funding could jeopardise the whole service.

‘This could have serious implications for large numbers of vulnerable people who are dependent on the specialist support they provide.’

Concern with how NHS funding is being used through PHBs follows a report by Pulse online, which conducted a series of investigations into CCG spending under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report says that CCGs in England are anticipating a total spend of £123m on PHBs during the current financial year, with individual CCGs allocating an average of £600,000 on PHBs.

Dr Vautrey said that using health service funding for non-evidence based treatments could ultimately bring the concept of PHBs into disrepute.

He said: ‘The information obtained by [Pulse] about some of the expenditure under this scheme is concerning, as precious NHS resources funded by the taxpayer should not be used to fund items or activities that have no evidence of clinical value and certainly shouldn't be spent on what many would regard as luxury purchases.’

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