Personal health budgets are set to be rolled out across the country from today (30 November 2012), it has been announced.
An independent assessment of government-led pilots of personal health budgets found quality of life improved through the initiative, with some users seeing a drop in hospital attendance.
It was also found that personal health budgets could result in savings of around £90m should half of those eligible join up to the scheme.
Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb announced personal health budgets will initially be targeted at those 56,000 people already receiving NHS Continuing Care and others who clinicians feel may benefit from the additional flexibility and control that personal health budgets offer.
The roll out of the scheme will be funded by a £1.5m government investment.
"Independent analysis has now shown that personal health budgets can put people back in control of their care and make a significant difference to their quality of life," said Lamb.
"The evaluation shows that those with the greatest needs benefit most from personal health budgets. That's why we are giving people on NHS continuing healthcare the chance to get one first. And, I hope more people who could benefit will be given the option of one."
It is hoped clinical commissioning groups will offer personal health budgets to more people with long term conditions who may benefit from the initiative.
National charity, In Control, is the main strategic partner to the Department of Health personal health budgets programme and said it was "extremely pleased" by the government roll out.
"Over the past four years we have worked with NHS staff across the country promoting and developing self directed support and personal budgets," said Julie Stansfield, CEO of In Control.
"Through these pilots we have seen a variety of people receive a personal budget and witnessed what a positive difference this has made to their lives.
"This is a fantastic achievement and it is welcome news that, very importantly, there are plans to expand the use of personal health budgets, regardless of the condition and logically, dependent on the level of need."
However, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, warned against the "unintended consequences" caused by the extension of the use of personal health budgets.
"We believe such a system may put pressure on patients to 'top-up' their care needs careful consideration before it is heralded as a real solution," he said.
"In particular, we are concerned that providing these budgets may exacerbate inequalities by giving the best care to those able to argue for it, and it may place vulnerable people at risk. The priority for the NHS should be to provide the care that is needed to all its patients, and the move to Personal Health Budgets could prove a costly distraction from that important aim."