Skip to main content

Health Care Provision

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

3. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on co-ordination of integrated health care provision across the England-Wales border. (285608)

The UK and Welsh Assembly Governments have worked closely together to agree the revised protocol for cross-border health care provision. I have long promoted the integration of conventional and complementary health care. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his work as chair of the all-party group on integrated and complementary health care.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Did he, in his discussions with the First Minister, refer to his work as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the pilot study there? Has he discussed the cost-effectiveness of integrated health care? Will he be discussing that with the new Secretary of State for Health in England?

I have discussed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the success of the pilot to which the hon. Gentleman refers, which I established as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2006 and 2008 and which had spectacular results. As a result of doctors being able to prescribe complementary health care free on the NHS, some two thirds of participating doctors agreed that their patients’ health had improved. About half the patients took fewer painkillers, half took less conventional medication, including prescriptions, and two thirds had less time off work. This is therefore a win-win situation. I hope that the pilot will be extended to England, to Wales, back into Northern Ireland—because the new Government there have not extended it—and to Scotland.

Will my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that there is a strong relationship—as strong as ever—concerning orthopaedic surgery, especially with Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital in Oswestry? I have to declare an interest, as does the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), because about 12 years ago we were patients there. It is important for patients in north Wales and mid-Wales to be happy in their minds that the relationship will continue.

I agree with my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Minister and I will certainly bring that up with our counterparts in Cardiff. It reflects the fact that waiting times are coming down in Wales, that patient care has been improving, and that there are more nurses, doctors and health care staff than ever before, all of which would be put at risk if the Conservatives came to office with their savage cuts policy.

I have recently had discussions with representatives of north Wales GPs about the practice of placing in institutions people who have complex medical needs, often psychiatric needs, without adequate referral or adequate support services being in place. Will the Secretary of State discuss with his colleagues who have responsibility for health in England the possibility of writing to health and social services bodies prevailing on them to refer properly and to provide proper services when they place people with complex medical needs in Wales?

I am obviously concerned to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will certainly take that matter up. If he cares to write to me with any specific instances, I will be happy to make representations on his behalf.

The Secretary of State will know that the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on cross-border health services identified the inadequate payment of English hospitals by the Welsh Assembly Government as one of the principal barriers to the timely treatment of Welsh patients. To what extent does he regard it as part of his role to co-ordinate discussions between the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly Government, with a view to ensuring that English hospitals receive fair payment and Welsh patients receive fair and timely treatment? To what extent is he actually doing so?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a protocol has been agreed that is designed specifically to deliver what he is asking for. If he knows of any shortcomings, I am happy to make further representations. That is my job. However, the protocol achieves what he wants, and I hope that it is working effectively.