Friday, 30 November 2012

Opportunity Knocks but can the NHS shine in buying music lessons?

Personal Budgets have been around in local government for some time.  They are now to be rolled out so that anyone within the NHS Continuing Care programme will be able to request their own Personal Health Budget. What does this mean and are there implications for procurement?

In theory Personal Budgets are the lowest form of devolved decision making you can arrive at and they maximise user choice. The person in need of care, rather than being told 'these are the services you will receive' is given a budget to purchase what they think is most helpful to their personal situation. This could include buying a dog for company, paying for music lessons, or, ... . Theoretically there is no reason we couldn't have the next Choir of the Year made up of recipients singing a song on their experiences of Work Capability Assessments!

£2.7bn a year will be spent on the programme - but could it be spent more effectively and will procurement expertise be drawn upon?

I would like to see commissioning, social services staff and those closest to the future recipient to help design the potential shopping list of services which may be required. I would then like framework agreements put in place which the recipients could access. If the 'price is right' and the quality matches the users need, then the recipient could 'call off' the framework.

Of course for recipients ease of access and visibility of the catalogue would need to match their experience of online shopping - could the NHS beat the best in the use of social media functionality for Personal Budget purchasing?

You may ask:
"how would getting a better deal for the recipient help the NHS?" Well the recipient's budget would go further and there would be better quality provided.

However, that then begs another question: "Who would be the contracting parties?" There are two potential options, one the NHS deduct the sum of money spent from the individuals personal budget and the NHS act as the contractor, or secondly, the NHS set up the frameworks in such a way that recipient is the contractor.

Of course there will be a need to make the administration of Personal Budgets as unbueareaucratic as possible. Could the issuing of pCards to potential 56,000 recipients help?

Then we have the issue of the Public Procurement Regulations - it will be interesting to see the first contact notice for 'Pampering Services'.

The NHS have some time to develop a procurement strategy for the new initiative. They also have the lessons learnt from three years of pilots. Now, when Personal Care Budgets eventually end up on the agenda of a Parliamentary Select Committee, will the procurement strategy be praised? We live in hope.

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