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More patients now get NHS personal health budgets from Tower Hamlets GPs than anywhere else in London

PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 September 2018

Jackie Kennedy and her faithful Labrador Kingston which has saved her life eight times. Picture: Mike Brooke

Jackie Kennedy and her faithful Labrador Kingston which has saved her life eight times. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

An ex-police officer now retired and confined to a wheelchair through ill health is one of nearly 400 NHS patients who have been switched to personal healthcare budgets by Tower Hamlets GPs.

Jackie on a seaside break with the dog that helps her manager her healthcare. Picture source: SportsbeatJackie on a seaside break with the dog that helps her manager her healthcare. Picture source: Sportsbeat

Jackie Kennedy, 53, a serving officer at Bethnal Green in the 1980s now disabled with a rare neurological condition and suffering epileptic fits, uses part of her personal funds to pay the upkeep of Kingston, her black Labrador companion trained to assist her with her healthcare.

The dog has actually saved her life at least eight times at her home in Poplar since she got him.

The number of personal health budgets in Tower Hamlets like Jackie’s has now reached 375, the highest in any London borough.

“I’m in Kingston’s paws between at night when my human carer isn’t here,” Jackie explained. “He’s my personal assistant and provides all the help I need since I got him three years ago.

Labrador Kingston's upkeep is paid for on Jackie Kennedy's personal NHS healthcare budget. Picture: Mike BrookeLabrador Kingston's upkeep is paid for on Jackie Kennedy's personal NHS healthcare budget. Picture: Mike Brooke

“It’s great to see that more people in the East End are receiving similar support which really puts you in the driving seat—you’re the master of your own health.”

Personal budgets are a new approach giving people with long-term health conditions and disabilities more choice and control over how money is spent on meeting their needs.

The programme is being accelerated by Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group to include mental health care, learning disabilities, long-term conditions such as diabetes and children with special educational needs.

Local GP Dr Sam Everington, who chairs the commissioning group, said: “People have more of a stake in their health care by actively getting involved, instead of having services provided for them.”

Jackie’s personal budget allocates £3,000 for Kingston’s upkeep—and its been her life saver.

Jackie’s story first appeared in the East London Advertiser in January 2016 when she revealed how Kingston had saved her life.

“Before Kingston, I had thoughts of suicide—life wasn’t worth living,” she told the paper.

“But he’s an incredible dog that does things you wouldn’t believe possible, which is the reason I’m alive now.

“He’s cut through his own tether and lead to raise the alarm to get me help and can spot one of my diabetic episodes 45 minutes before they happen.”

The smart Labrador knows nearly 200 commands and can put Jackie’s clothes on the bed for her, fetch her mobile phone and bring her a blanket. He also sounds an alarm if needed, takes Jackie her hypo-kit and opens the door for paramedics.

Kingston helping Jackie manage her physical disabilities is saving the NHS more than 60 ambulance trips this year alone.

Local commissioning groups are expanding Personal Health Budgets under NHS plans published last year, estimated to benefit 100,000 people over the next three years.

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