Patients with long-term illnesses should be given money to buy and organise their own NHS care, say experts in the British Medical Journal.
Direct payments for social care were introduced into the UK in 1996. Disabled adults, the elderly and carers for disabled children can accurately tailor services to their individual needs.
Vidhya Alakeson believes the same scheme should be piloted in healthcare.
Alakeson believes that direct payments and indivdual budgets will give patients a greater say over the types of treatment they receive and will reduce costs for local authorities.
Piloting individual budgets in the NHS would signal a real commitment to patient-centred healthcare, says Alakeson.
She acknowledges that individual budgets would not be appropriate for all types of healthcare, but patients are strongly in favour of including NHS resources within individual budgets and ending the divide between social and healthcare.
The time has come, says Alakeson, for the government to match their rhetorical commitment to patient-centred healthcare systems with a real commitment to pilot individual healthcare budgets.