Vulnerable patients are to be given control of taxpayers' cash to fund their own treatment in the community under a plan to save money and keep them out of hospitals, the head of the NHS has said.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told the Guardian that from April the elderly, disabled children, the mentally ill and those with learning difficulties will be able to control budgets to spend on carers, physiotherapists and psychotherapy sessions.
The paper reported that most patients on the scheme are likely to get more than £1,000 from health service and local government coffers, with some with complex requirements receiving larger sums, though they will all retain the right to free GP and hospital care.
Mr Stevens told the newspaper that more than five million people could be using the system by 2018, funded by "billions" of pounds of public money.
He wants to use it to improve the quality of care the four groups receive, which is currently fragmented and has been hit badly by local authority funding cuts.
He told the Guardian: "We are going to set out the biggest offer to bring health and social care together that there's been since 1948 - a new option for combining them at the level of the individual."
Patients would not receive cash directly under the plan, the paper reported, but would be able to control how it is spent after agreeing a care plan with their doctors.
Mr Stevens took over the £189,900 post as head of the health service in April, replacing Sir David Nicholson.
He will outline his plan in a speech to the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth today.
Councillor Katie Hall, chair of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "We know that giving individuals greater control over how to use the money available for their care and health support can give them greater choice and help improve their lives.
"Councils have been doing this through social care for many years and the Care Act, which will come in next year, will further strengthen people's rights to a more personalised approach to care.
"It is good that the NHS has recognised the benefits of this local government model and we are very keen to work with the NHS on developing practical ways to make care more personalised.
"However, it will not resolve the structural problems in the health and care system or solve the funding crisis in social care, which was worsened by the Better Care Fund announcement last week.
"We still urgently need the Government to commit to a bigger Better Care Fund that will join up funding between health and social care over the next five years, providing better support for less money."