The Secretary of State for Health met Ministers of the Welsh Assembly Government on 1 December last year to discuss the future of the cross-border commissioning protocol, and I am meeting the Under-Secretary of State for Wales in the next few weeks. It was agreed that until the forthcoming changes in the Health and Social Care Bill are finalised, no substantial changes to the cross-border protocol should be introduced, as is right. The protocol, which expired on the 31 March this year, has therefore been renewed for one year with minimal changes.
More than 200,000 people from Wales, including people from my constituency, access services in England at the Countess of Chester hospital, Clatterbridge, the Christie, and the Walton in Liverpool. More than 50,000 people from England access health services in Wales. What guarantees can the Minister give me that the proposed changes in the Health and Social Care Bill will not wreck those arrangements?
There is absolutely no reason why they should. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. It is worth pointing out that there are many areas of commonality between the health services in England and Wales. Of course, it is up to the Welsh Assembly Government to decide what scale of finance and resource they provide. I am aware that there are some cross-border issues that clearly need to be resolved.
The Minister will know from the Welsh Affairs Committee report that there is considerable traffic of people accessing GP services across the border in both directions, with the net benefit going to England. Will she reassure me that the interests of people on both sides of the border will be served when the Health and Social Care Bill is finally enacted?