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What’s next for Personal Health Budgets? – Alison Austin

Expo 2015’s pop-up university will hear from Alison Austin, NHS England’s Personalisation & Control Policy Lead, who recently spoke at a Westminster Briefing about the rollout of Personal Health Budgets. Here she shares her passion for putting people with long term conditions and disabilities in direct control of managing their own health:

Exciting times lay ahead for those of us involved in – and passionate about – personal health budgets.

While it is only a relatively small group of people who have a right to have a personal health budget – those eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare – Clinical Commissioning Groups are now beginning to engage with their populations to develop a new local offer which will extend the availability to others who could benefit from next year.

We know from the pilot programme that ran from 2009 to 2012 that personal health budgets can make a real difference for a range of people with complex health needs, both mental and physical, and I believe they can be part of the solution to some of the big challenges facing the NHS.

As someone who has been involved with personal health budgets for more years then I care to admit, it’s great to see some of the learning that has been gathered over the past few years begin to grow and have a greater impact.

On our website you can find accounts of people who have used a personal health budget as a way to increase choice, flexibility and control over how their care is managed. For me these aren’t just ‘stories’, they are real people, many of whom I have got to know and work with to get the policy right. They are people who have been able to think about what’s important in their life and find new ways to manage their health, despite living with debilitating conditions or disabilities.

People like Jo Fitzgerald who has worked tirelessly to get personal health budget policies and processes right for people, and who was recently quite rightly recognised in the HSJ Patient Leaders list.

Recently, I was speaking at an event alongside Tory Barrow. Hearing about how her family were able to spend precious time at home with their daughter in her final months vividly showed the difference a personal health budget can have. Months that could have been spent sitting around a hospital bedside, were filled with family outings and cinema trips. Special memories were made because Tory was able to train and manage a team of personal assistants who worked around the family to look after Lina.

For many people it’s not about radical change, but the small things that make such a difference. For David, it was the fact that he could train his personal assistants to change dressings daily so that he could get to work instead of waiting in for a district nurse with a packed caseload. Now the nurse just needs to check that all is well weekly, while David has the flexibility he needs to get on with his busy schedule.

Personal health budgets aren’t going to cure long term conditions, but they were never expected to.

As a nurse, I learned early in my career that my job as a health professional wasn’t always to make people better. Our clinical skills, treatments and medication have limitations. When people are living with long term conditions our role changes to one where we’re working with people to help them stay well, manage their condition and identify what they need to live their life, their way.

The direction of travel is clear, and the Five Year Forward View strengthens the claim that more people with long term conditions should be able to benefit from the flexibility offered by a personal health budget.

People are so much more than a collection of ailments and conditions. They are individuals with assets, strengths, and preferences. They have families, friends, hobbies, and jobs. Personal health budgets work because they tap into the expertise and resources people have, opening up new conversations between professional and patient to mutually create a care and support plan that enables them to manage their health and have a life.

I see personal health budgets as a way to ensure the NHS gets care and support right for people – it’s the reason I became a nurse in the first place.

All CCGs have been invited to take part in the NHS England ‘Moving Forward with Personal Health Budgets’ programme, and from the autumn we will be running an intensive support programme at six venues across the country to support CCGs in developing their local offer.

You can find out more about what the planning guidance for CCGs sets out regarding personal health budgets in this FAQ document.

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Follow news and conversations about Expo 2015 on Twitter @NHSExpo and #Expo15NHS.


Alison Austin, Personalisation and Control LeadAlison Austin is Personalisation and Control Lead in NHS England.

Working in the Patient and Information Directorate, her role focuses on making patient and carer participation in decisions about their care a reality across the NHS. This involves helping to change the relationships between individuals and the health professionals that support them, through shared decision making and support for self-management, personalised care planning and personal health budgets.

Prior to her current role, Alison headed up the Department of Health’s Personal Health Budgets Team – developing the policy and overseeing the pilot programme.

She has worked on health or medical related issues in a number of Government Departments including Department of Health, Medical Devices Agency, Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, and the Treasury.

Alison is a qualified nurse with 13 years’ experience working in the NHS and has a degree in molecular biology and a PhD in molecular biochemistry.

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