As far as the main stream media have been concerned, things have been very quiet at the Department of Health recently, so this prompted me to have a dig around to find out what our erstwhile health team have been up to.
Interestingly, Lord Darzi, one of the Health Ministers, is initiating a little publicised project called Personal Health Budgets (PHB), a new way of funding NHS care for chronically ill patients. I first wrote about this here in January, but this week the Trusts undertaking the pilot schemes have been announced.
My criticisms of this project remain the same, while I applaud this initiative, I do not think that it goes far enough. My view is that if projects like this are to really work, patients must be able to purchase care from the private sector as well as the NHS.
As part of my digging around I telephoned the PHB office. Here while asking one question, “Will patients be able to purchase care from the private sector?”, I was passed around to speak to a number of people within the department. The general gist of the replies I got was that the guidelines have not been developed yet, most of their experience is in social care not health so they are not sure what will be decided for health care and finally, they are not sure what will happen if patients become acutely ill because patients do not have the experience or knowledge to make such ‘difficult’ decisions! (or to put it bluntly, patients are not trusted to make decisions because the bureaucrats might not like the outcomes!).
This leads me to suspect that yet again an enlightened project will be derailed a bureaucracy that really doesn’t want patients to behave like customers.