NHS England and local councils have announced the first demonstrator sites in the country that will merge health and social care funding for vulnerable individuals and allow them to decide on how it is used.

The first wave of the Integrated Personal Commissioning programme is set to go live on April 1 this year, providing around 10,000 people with complex needs with control over how their own combined health and social care cash pile is spent.

Four groups of high-need patients - the elderly with long term conditions, children with disabilities and their families, people with learning disabilities, and those living with serious mental illness - will decide on how their budget is spent to deliver an agreed care plan, in a radical shift of power that NHS England says will transform the care of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

The over-riding aim, says NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens, is to put an end to “fragmented like-it-or-lump-it health and social care”, giving families “the chance to make a reality of person-level health and social care integration, as the NHS moves beyond just asking ‘what’s the matter with you? to ‘what matters to you?’.”

The eight demonstrators sites chosen include Portsmouth, which will support older people with multiple long-term conditions who are most at risk of avoidable hospital admissions with more joined up personalised care, and Luton, which, through the development of the IPC model, will enable more choices for dementia patients about their care with the goal of being able to stay independent for longer.