Throughout my life I’ve been busy and active, and have been successful in most of the things I’ve turned my hand to: being in the army for 15 years and working as a blacksmith are just a couple of the things I’ve done.

A series of strokes have left me physically disabled and clinically depressed – but it has always been important to me to remain active, occupy my mind with interests and activities, and spend time with others as often as I can.

I’d never heard of a personal health budget before getting my own, but it has made a dramatic difference to my physical and mental health, and my life in general.

I had a stroke in October 2009, and a TIA (mini-stroke), last year which left me blind in one eye. Following this, I was being helped for my physical problems, but was struggling to get help for my mental problems.

It was then that I heard that Nene Commissioning were looking for suitable candidates from different areas of Northamptonshire for the personal health budget pilot project, and a lady from Nene came to visit me at home to discuss it. It was initially something of an alien concept to me, and in particular it was hard to accept what felt like an idea too good to be true. But I’d started to become involved with The Stroke Association and Different Strokes at this stage, and I thought I could pass on some knowledge of the scheme to the stroke survivors I was working with there.

I was asked to put together a health plan, which my occupational therapist helped me with. I had to establish and outline my needs and then price up services, before the plan went to the council’s committee who then make a decision on whether or not to approve it. A lot of time allotted to me by the mental health team was spent working on the plan rather than on me personally – but when we completed and submitted it, it was approved.

I received everything that I said I needed in the plan, including a PA – I live alone and my PA helps to support me in terms of my mobility and memory problems, co-ordinating things like my diet, organising my mail, administration, and sometimes even my wardrobe! My personal health budget covers the cost of having the PA for two hours per week, and I pay for the other 2-3 hours a week myself.

It has also covered the cost of a Sat Nav and a ‘tablet’. The latter has helped to restore my I.T skills – I use it for email and as an organiser. As a result my confidence in technology has increased and I’m now able use my home PC and new smartphone as helpful tools to overcome or adapt some of my disabilities, and to help make some tasks a lot easier.

I use the personal health budget for private counselling on a weekly basis, and as an alternative to conventional physiotherapy I take drumming lessons! I now have a drum kit at home – not only does it help my co-ordination, drumming is a fun workout for body and brain.

I opened a bank account which the money is paid directly into on a monthly basis, and I pay my PA and for other services as I go along, which works really well for me.

The main difference that my personal health budget has made to my life is that it has given me a lot of confidence to get out into the world again, when I had previously felt that I no longer had a purpose. I travel round the country now, and am a member of several organisations, and I feel a lot healthier because my diet and medication are right – I care about my appearance, my life is full and busy and I’m able to contribute to society through peer networks.

I can organise things around myself rather than what’s available – and I now need the hospital’s services once a month, instead of once a week.

I’ve been humbled by the people I’ve met on my personal health budget journey, and it has made a huge difference to my life. I think that rolling it out across the country would be a fantastic idea – it’s a win-win for the government, it’s cost effective and will enable people to be directly involved in trying to improve their own health, lives and wellbeing.

You can read Alex’s blog here. Watch Nene Clinical Commissioning Group’s PHB video, featuring Alex, here.