The government's plans to hand patients more control of the NHS have taken shape in the form of personal health budgets that can be used to spend on key services.
Eight pilot projects testing the viability of the idea have been rolled out at PCTs across England, with patients receiving money directly for specific health conditions rather than having the money passed on to them through a PCT or another intermediary.
Care services minister Paul Burstow said the new budgets will help to put patients back in control of their healthcare provision while improving clinical outcomes by making health and social care on the NHS work more closely.
"The government wants to put patients at the heart of everything the NHS does," he said.
"Direct payments, and personal health budgets more generally, have great potential to put patients in control, enable integration across health and social care and improve outcomes.
"Approved pilot sites will be able to offer direct payments to people across a range of conditions and services, including continuing healthcare, a number of long-term conditions, mental health, learning disabilities and end-of-life care."
The pilot scheme has been set up under the 2009 Health Act with further trials due in the future, Mr Burstow said.