Primary care trusts in London and Liverpool will be among the first to “road test” direct payments for personal health budgets, care services minister Paul Burstow announced today.

Eight PCTs in England will pilot the direct payment scheme, designed to give patients with long term conditions more choice and control over how, where and from whom they receive their healthcare.

Previously, personal health budgets could only be held by a PCT or third party.  Under the scheme, patients will be given the money directly following an agreed care plan with the PCT, detailing their health needs, the amount of money in their budget and how it will be spent.

The money will come from existing funding within PCTs and will cover the full cost of the care plan. It will most likely be given to the patient in monthly instalments, or possibly a lump sum for a one off purchase such as a piece of equipment.  

The Department of Health initiative is part of a wider programme testing personal health budgets, involving around 70 PCTs in England.

More PCTs will be authorised to offer direct payments over the coming year, and the pilot programme - which runs until 2012 - will be used to inform a wider rollout of the scheme across the NHS.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said the scheme is a “step away from the rigidity” of primary care trusts deciding what services a patient will receive.

“Direct payments have real potential to improve the lives of individuals with long term health needs by putting treatment choices in their hands,” he said.

“It will stop healthcare from slipping back to the days of one-dimensional, like-it-or-lump-it services.”

The PCTs trialling personal health budgets

  • Doncaster PCT
  • Eastern & Coastal Kent PCT
  • Central London (joint bid from Hammersmith and Fulham PCT, Kensington and Chelsea PCT and Westminster PCT)
  • Islington PCT
  • Merseyside (joint bid from Knowsley PCT, Liverpool PCT and Sefton PCT)
  • Oxford PCT
  • Somerset PCT
  • West Sussex PCT