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J Health Serv Res Policy. 2014 Jul;19(3):183-188. Epub 2014 Apr 3.

Personalization of health care in England: have the wrong lessons been drawn from the personal health budget pilots?

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Independent Social Care Consultant, Harlow, UK.
Professor of Disability Studies and Director, Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, University of Glasgow, School of Social and Political Sciences, UK
Professor of Social Policy and Director, Centre for Citizen Participation, Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, UK.
MRC Research Fellow (Population Health Scientist), Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College, UK.


The Government has introduced personal health budgets in England's National Health Service (NHS). A three-year programme of pilots has shown that personal health budgets have improved outcomes and are generally cost-effective. They are seen as a key step toward creating a personalized service. However, the Government is attributing the success of the pilots to entirely the wrong factors. It believes that a process similar to the one introduced in social care - where it is called self-directed support - based on the person being given a sum of money 'up-front' with which to plan their own care - is responsible for the better outcomes. However, this is not supported by the evidence from the pilots which points to quite different factors being at play. The consequences are potentially very serious. The success of the pilots will not be repeated in roll out. Further, there is the potential to greatly weaken the service by creating confused process and practice, and additional dysfunctional bureaucracy. The practice and process implications from a correct reading of the reasons for success within the pilots centre on replacing the consumerist concepts underpinning self-directed support with what we have called 'flexibility through partnership'. This will require freeing up the resource base as cash and creating a policy framework to enable decisions about how much resource each person should get within a cash-limited budget that will almost certainly be less than would be required to meet all assessed need.


personal health budgets; personalization; use of research in policy


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