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What is a personal health budget?

A personal health budget is an amount of NHS money that is allocated to support your health and wellbeing needs. If you're eligible for it, you (or someone who represents you), will work with your local NHS team to plan how you spend the money and get the care you need.

A personal health budget allows you to manage your healthcare and support such as treatments, equipment and personal care, in a way that suits you. It works in a similar way to personal budgets and direct payments, which allow people to manage and pay for their social care needs.

Video: What are personal health budgets?

This video explains what personal health budgets are and how they are helping people to get care and support.

Media last reviewed: 2 August 2023
Media review due: 2 August 2026

Who can get it?

The right to have a personal health budget applies to people who are:

  • adults receiving NHS continuing healthcare (NHS-funded long-term health and personal care provided outside hospital)
  • children receiving NHS continuing healthcare
  • people who are referred and meet the eligibility criteria of their local wheelchair service and people who are already registered with the wheelchair service when they need a new wheelchair or specialist buggy, either because of a change in clinical needs or the condition of the current chair. These people will be eligible for a personal wheelchair budget.
  • people with a mental health condition who are eligible for section 117 after-care as a result of being detained under certain sections of the Mental Health Act (this does not include detention under section 2 of the Act).

Find out more about personal wheelchair budgets from NHS England.

Find out more about section 117 after-care from Rethink Mental Illness.

If you are not in a group that has a right to a personal health budget, but you are interested in receiving one, speak to your local integrated care board (ICB). ICBs make the arrangements for personal health budgets and are encouraged to offer them to other patient groups.

Find your local integrated care board (ICB)

How is a personal health budget worked out?

The amount you receive is based on an assessment of your health, your wellbeing needs and the cost of meeting those needs. If you are able to have a personal health budget, then together with your NHS team you'll develop a personalised care and support plan. The plan sets out:

  • your personal health and wellbeing needs
  • the health outcomes you want to achieve
  • the amount of money in your budget
  • how you'll spend it

A care co-ordinator, who will be your first point of contact in case you have any concerns, should be identified in the planning process.

Visit the peoplehub website, where people with a personal health budget and their families and carers share their experiences.

A personal health budget will not be right for everyone and it will not always be the best way to receive support.

You are not allowed to spend the money on gambling, debt repayment, alcohol, tobacco, or anything illegal. If you spend your budget in ways that have not been agreed, you may be asked to repay the money to the ICB.

Any emergency care, medicines or GP care you receive are separate and will not be paid for from your budget.

Monitoring and review

Once you have a personal health budget, your NHS team will periodically review your care plan with you. You can also ask your NHS team to review and update your plan because your health needs have changed, or you feel the current plan is not working for you.

You can give up your personal health budget at any point if you wish to; you will still be able to receive care and support in another way.

Can I have a personal health budget as well as a personal budget?

Yes. If you already receive a personal budget and direct payments for care and support from social care services, and your NHS team agrees, you can also have a personal health budget. You can ask for both to be paid into the same bank account.

What's the difference between a personal health budget, a personal budget, an integrated personal budget and a direct payment?

  • A personal health budget is for your NHS healthcare and support needs.
  • A personal budget is for your social care and support needs.
  • An integrated personal budget is for both your healthcare and support needs and social care needs.
  • A direct payment is one way of managing these budgets. It's when you get the money directly to buy the agreed care and support you need rather than the council arranging it for you.

What happens if I disagree with the amount I'm offered?

The discussion around your plan should include what to do if you disagree with something, or if something goes wrong. If you're not sure what to do, speak to your NHS team. If you're still not happy, you can follow the NHS complaints procedure.

What if my request for a personal health budget is turned down?

If your request for a personal health budget is turned down, you should be told why. If you wish to appeal, your local ICB should explain what to do. If you're still not happy, you can follow the NHS complaints procedure.

Managing your personal health budget

A personal health budget can be managed in 3 ways, or a combination of these.

1. Notional budget

No money is given to you directly. You find out how much money is available for your assessed needs and together with your NHS team you decide how to spend that money. They will then arrange the agreed care and support for you.

2. Third party budget

An organisation legally independent of both you and the NHS (for example, an independent user trust or a voluntary organisation) holds the money for you, and also pays for and arranges the care and support agreed in your care plan

3. Direct payment for healthcare

You get the money to buy the care and support you and your NHS team agree you need. You must show what you have spent it on, but you, or your representative, buy and manage services yourself.

Managing your personal wheelchair budget

There are 4 different options for managing a personal wheelchair budget.

1. Notional personal wheelchair budget

No money is paid to you directly. The NHS purchases and provides your chair, but you can contribute to the budget with money from other sources to get a higher specification wheelchair. This was previously known as a partnership voucher.

2. Third party personal wheelchair budget

You can use your personal wheelchair budget to purchase equipment outside of the NHS. You can also contribute additional money from other sources. This was previously known as an independent voucher.

3. Traditional third party personal health budget

If you have a wheelchair as part of a wider package of care and support, an independent organisation could help you manage the budget you receive and pay for the chair.

4. Direct payment

This is where you get the money to pay for the equipment you need. This option is not usually available at the moment for personal wheelchair budgets.

Find out more about personal wheelchair budgets from NHS England.

What happens if I underspend, or overspend, my budget?

There are likely to be times when your healthcare needs change and this may affect your budget.

If you have underspent, your NHS team will discuss with you what happens to the money that is left. It may be kept for your future healthcare needs, or returned to the ICB and allocated to other budget holders.

If you have overspent, contact your NHS team as soon as possible. No-one with a personal health budget will be denied healthcare. If you feel you need more support than was agreed in your care plan, those arrangements can be reviewed.

You can request a review of your needs and care plan at any time. If you have spent your budget in ways that have not been agreed with your NHS team, you may be asked to repay it.

Page last reviewed: 5 April 2023
Next review due: 5 April 2026