April 1st marks the next stage in the Personal Health Budget’s journey, which, after a series of pilot trials, is now available nationally. NHS England has announced that from 1 April 2014, patients will have the right to request a personal health budget which is, as it sounds, an agreed, budgeted amount of NHS money made available to individual patients with long term conditions to meet their healthcare and wellbeing needs. A personal health budget can mean either a notional budget (allocating a notional “pot” of money to a patient’s needs), direct payments (a payment directly to an individual patient under agreed conditions to allow them to manage their care) or a third party arrangement .

It is, of course, a right to ask, not a right to have a personal health budget, so commissioners will still need to assess whether a patient is eligible for a personal health budget and whether it is appropriate. To comply with the requirements in the National Health Service (Direct Payments) Regulations 2013 commissioners will need to show they have considered: (a) whether a personal health budget is appropriate for a person with that person's condition; (b) the impact of that condition on that person's life; and (c) whether a personal health budget represents value for money.

NHS England has published a suite of guidance materials to assist commissioners in deciding whether a personal health budget is appropriate and the practicalities of setting up and managing arrangements. These guidance notes are available to view on NHS England’s Personal Health Budgets webpage.