Page last updated at 02:44 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 03:44 UK

Personal NHS budgets considered

Doctor generic
The government believes that patient choice improves quality

Patients with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and diabetes could get control of their own NHS budgets to buy treatment, the government has said.

The Department of Health confirmed it was considering the plan, aimed at long-term sufferers in England.

A DoH statement insisted patients would not be given cash, and that no money would leave the NHS under the scheme.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "We want choice for everyone within a world-class NHS."

'Driver of quality'

The government is already piloting schemes across the country to allow elderly and disabled people to control the way care budgets are spent.

Choice is a means to an end
Health Secretary Alan Johnson

A proposal to extend that idea into the realm of health is contained in a report by Health Minister Lord Darzi, due to be published in June.

The scheme - which would let people shop around for care and arrange visits when they want - would be piloted before being rolled out across England.

Mr Johnson added: "Choice is a means to an end, the end being better quality and more personalisation of healthcare.

"Choice, combined with payment by results, is an important driver of quality."

Under separate plans, from April patients who need elective hospital treatment will be able to choose from more than 350 hospitals across England - both NHS and private.

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