On the surface having control over your own health budget is an attractive idea, after all politicians, clinicians have been trying to sell us the idea for quite some time now, as a way of taking some control over who we have looking after our loved ones. I say, beware of Greeks bearing gifts, ask yourself what is in it for them? I know that is a very cynical view of the world, but I have been bitten in the arse too many times by the system over the span of my lifetime to be anything other.
Argument 1: It has been proven to work really well in social care.
Counter Argument : Patients under Continuing Health Care have a proven on going medical need, their needs are usually complex , their care workers have to have specialised medical based knowledge. Who is going to certify that training, competency, on-going refreshers etc. If the patient’s family take on this role because they have decided to directly hire someone, this will be a mine field for both the family and the care worker. Who will pay for the training? Only sensible other option will be to hire staff via an agency, so taking away the benefits of direct hire and higher wage for the care-worker.
Possible Outcomes: poorly trained care workers carrying out complex medical procedures, increase risk of adverse incidents or at best status quo.
Argument 2: Quality of Care workers can be improved as you can pay more.
Counter Argument: Yes it is true you do get what you pay for. Care workers are under paid for they do. Under the direct budget system you will probably have two ways of employing your care workers. Firstly directly employ the staff you need, this is not as easy as it sounds and although there are a few agencies that can do the pay roll side for you, which will come out of your budget. You become an employer responsible for insuring recruitment, National Insurance, rosters, annual leave cover, employment contracts, risk assessments, care plans, discipline and training are taken care of. I have an MBA, have run my own business, so understand all this stuff, I don’t relish taking this on.
The second way will be to recruit through a care worker agency, they will do all employers stuff for you, but you will still be responsible for negotiating the supply contract and because you will be a small customer you will not get the same deals that big organisations like the NHS negotiate.
Possible Outcomes: If you do it yourself and get it wrong, you could end up in court or employment tribunal. The papers are full of such stories of things going wrong. If you use an agency you could end up with contract conditions that are worse than the current ones under the superior buying power of the NHS. Benefit is that you take out the middleman and have a direct relationship with the agency.
Argument 3: The Budget.
How many families under continuing health care think they have a sufficient budget presently? Not many I would think. It has been made clear to me on several occasions that if my Hubby requires more than he is currently getting, he will be forced into a nursing home. This leaves me covering weekends, and any unexpected extra hours needed. So now you will be expected to take that already under funded budget and manage it yourself. How will it work under the new system if the patients requirements change how quickly will you be able to get the budget reallocated? In an emergency, i.e. all your staff fall ill with flu, weather prevents staff from getting there, you will be responsible for using your budget to cover this. If managing the budget becomes too much, what mechanisms will be in place to have the NHS take things over again.
Possible Outcomes: Life is messy and so will this be.
I have come to the conclusion that rather than improve what is not working well with the current system the NHS have jumped on personal budgets as a means of ridding themselves of a problem that they cannot be bothered to fix.