Personal Health Budgets are being rolled out across the country by the Department of Health. Anyone who receives Continuing Health Care from the NHS will have the right to have a personal budget by October 2014 to allow them to manage the support they need in a way that suits them. It is a new and complicated process with little information available. The government has launched a NHS England Personal Health Budget site and there is a peer support and information system at PeopleHub, but there is little third-party information available.
Delivering Personal Health Budgets by Vidhya Alakeson aims to provide a factual view on PHBs, tracing their history, efficacy, implementation and case studies. It is to my knowledge the first in-depth book specifically about PHBs as they will be implemented in the UK, although other books have touched upon them particularly in the context of social care.
Good to Know
The author is knowledgeable.
Alakeson has been involved with multiple pilots of PHBs over seven years and her acknowledgements read like a who’s who in the PHB world. She is clearly and unashamedly a supporter of the concept of PHBs although expresses concern at the way that they may or have been implemented in some areas. Whilst this does not make a neutral textbook it does make for a better read and makes it more useful to readers.
It provides context
The book goes into the history of PHBs in the UK and charts their rocky and slow progress from an idea in the early 2000’s to their current near launched state. It also charts similar schemes worldwide which have interesting lessons and information and covers the politics in the UK both within the NHS and in a wider governmental sense. For anyone embarking on the road to receiving a PHB themselves, as well as professionals in the field, the context it provides in invaluable to promote understanding of what PHBs should be, how they should work and why they are a good idea.
The book is aimed at “commissioners, healthcare providers, clinicians and policy makers” rather than the end user of Personal Health Budgets. This is partially because PHBs are somewhat of a postcode lottery at the moment with different CCGs choosing to implement them in different ways. As such it would be hard to write a simple book for the user because the details could vary wildly from area to area. In other words this is aimed at the people who have to set and carry out local policy rather than those who receive NHS care.
If you are an engaged user and know which routes your local CCG has chosen this will only be a small issue, but it does make the book unavoidably hard to access for the novice.
What it covers
The book is divided into three sections. The introduction to PHBs include information about what they are, how they developed and the evidence that they work. The second second covers implementation and running of PHBs, including the process of obtaining a PHB, setting the budget and how to manage and monitor them. Finally Alakeson looks at PHBs in the context of the NHS and the organisational and cultural changes required.
The book was written at the end of 2013 and published in early 2014 and covers the situation up until that point, in other words just up until the right to ask is due to come in April 2014. It takes all of the pilots and the decisions on NHS England’s guidance into account, but is does not cover how individual CCGs choose to roll it out PHBs.
Features and Accessibility
The book is available in hard cover, paperback and as a Kindle eBook through Amazon . It is in a fairly standard textbook format with a few diagrams, but the vast majority of the information is presented as text.
If you have any visual issues I would recommend the Kindle version with the option to change font and text size to suit your needs. The book is Text-To-Speech enabled ( on the Kindle Fire HDX, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (2nd generation), and Kindle DX) and this is a somewhat usable option, although the monotone computerised voice gets a lot of medical and social terminology pronunciation wrong.
Delivering Personal Health Budgets is expertly written and provides clear and accurate information in great detail. It is clearly aimed at those involved with setting up and running PHBs and as such expects a certain level of understanding of the NHS and the medical system, but expert and engaged users will find it an interesting read and potentially valuable resource. It is not written for and cannot be recommended for most PHB users due to the technical format at least until they have gained a good understanding from other sources. If you are a commissioner or work with PHBs this book should be on your bookcases and should be well referenced.
Product: Delivering Personal Health Budgets: A Guide to Policy and Practice | Author: Vidhya Alakeson | Release Date: Jan 2014