NHS budget spent on a summer house, holidays and a pedalo ride
Health service comes under fire for allowing personal health budgets to be spent on 'treats' for patients
Millions of pounds from NHS budgets have been spent on luxuries including holidays, games consoles and even a summerhouse under the controversial personal health scheme.
They were introduced to give patients more control over their care, but a freedom of information request by GPs magazine Pulse has revealed that funding is being spent on "treats".
Previous cases include a woman who was given a free holiday so she could "feel like a good mum" and one patient who was given a summerhouse so they could relax in "their own space," the Daily Telegraph reports.
The information provided by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) suggests they plan to spend more than £120m this year on personal budgets for 4,800 patients. Anyone in need of continuing healthcare is eligible for the scheme and spending decisions are made in consultation with doctors.
But Pulse reports that personal budgets are "beginning to destabilise existing services", with one mental health service having to shut down because funding was being channelled into the scheme.
Although the majority of the funds are spent on personal assistants, therapy and care provision, senior GPs have criticised the scheme for wasting money at a time when the NHS estimates it needs to make a further £20bn in efficiency savings.The British Medical Association told the BBC that it had serious reservations about the scheme and "the inappropriate use of scarce NHS money on non-evidence based therapies".
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the association's General Practitioners Committee, warned that offering such luxuries could have further implications.
"While individuals may themselves value a massage or summerhouse, others will understandably start to question why they can't also have such things paid for by the state – and that will just fuel demand," he told Pulse.
But NHS England has defended the scheme, saying it provides excellent value for money and is an important resource for patients. "An independent evaluation has shown that personal health budgets are cost effective, help people manage their health and improve quality of life," a spokesperson said.