Personal health budgets - Arthritis Research UK reports

A new report from Arthritis Research UK calls for the needs of people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions to be taken into account if personal health budgets are extended across the NHS in England.

The report found that when the concept was explained to them, 63% of people with a musculoskeletal condition who responded to our survey (1) would accept a personal health budget. 77% thought that having one would make them feel more in control of their health. At the same time, over half (52%) were concerned that personal health budgets would reduce their access to treatments within the NHS. A quarter of respondents indicated that they would not accept a personal health budget if offered one

Workshops held as part of this work uncovered concerns about how personal health budgets would take into account the fluctuating nature of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. The need for planning ‘in the good times’ for contingencies ‘in the bad times’ was key.

People with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions also voiced their need for support from their GP or nurse in putting together a personal health budget.

Good information about how personal health budgets work and how they could be spent is vital. Resources should be developed, such as case studies, to illustrate how a personal health budget could be used.

The role of charities should be clarified: charities are a useful source of information and support to people with long term conditions, but would need additional funding if required to provider personal brokerage services.

Further clarity is also needed about the potential impact of personal health budgets on wider health services.

Personal health budgets aim to give people with long term conditions greater choice, flexibility and control over their health services and the support they receive. The Department of Health has been piloting there use across England, but patients with arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions were not included despite 20% of the general population consulting their GP about these conditions. The results of the independent evaluation of the pilot are expected to be published in the autumn.

Arthritis Research UK conducted qualitative and quantitative research with people with musculoskeletal conditions, health professionals and policy makers about personal health budgets. Its findings have been drawn together in its report: ‘Personal health budgets: perspectives from people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions’. 

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, said: ‘Musculoskeletal conditions affect around 10 million people across the UK and are a leading cause of disability. Common symptoms include pain, joint stiffness, limitation in movement and fluctuation in severity over time.

If personal health budgets are extended across the NHS, it is important that the needs of people with arthritis are considered. Arthritis is very common and is a fluctuating condition and people with the same condition may not necessarily have the same requirements. In addition many people with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, frequently have other long term medical conditions. Any care planning must take into consideration the nature of all conditions if it is to be effective.

The people with arthritis and health care professionals that we spoke to were clear: good information both about personal health budgets and how they can be spent will be crucial.’

For more information on personal health budgets please see: http://www.personalhealthbudgets.dh.gov.uk

(1) The survey was publicised widely to people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. They were invited to complete a questionnaire, either in paper form or online at the Arthritis Research UK website. A total of 486 people responded in the period 15 August to 18 November 2011. 81% of respondents who disclosed their gender stated they were female and 19% male. 59% of the group who gave their age stated they were aged 55 or above and 41% under 55. 41% of respondents had rheumatoid arthritis, 25% osteoarthritis and 15% back pain as their main musculoskeletal condition. 9% had another inflammatory arthritis condition and 8% fibromyalgia. Of those who disclosed the severity of their condition, 43% described their condition as ‘severe’ and a similar number (47%) as ‘moderate’. Only 10% described their symptoms as mild.

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