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Cross-border Health Care (Wales/England)

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 26 November 2013

11. What discussions he has had with NHS hospital trusts on taking account of the interests of patients in Wales who depend on hospitals in England. (901268)

As my hon. Friend knows, officials from NHS England frequently meet the Welsh Government to discuss the issue of health care provided in England for Welsh patients. He will know that NHS England has a duty to consider the likely impact of any commissioning decision it makes on people who reside in an area of Wales that is close to the border.

Does my hon. Friend agree that when commissioners for NHS hospital trusts in Shropshire are considering where to locate services, account must be taken of the needs of patients in Montgomeryshire, the vast majority of whom are dependent on Shropshire hospitals, particularly the Royal Shrewsbury hospital?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the fact that cross-border health care is an area of great concern. There is a requirement to take note, as he says. The work is ongoing and I am happy to have those discussions with him.

It is not only patients local to the border who access treatment in England. Patients from as much as 90 or 100 miles away in the west of Wales—for example, young babies—access treatment on the Wirral. However, does the Minister agree that it is in the interests of hospital trusts in England to take patients from Wales, as it has been demonstrated that they often make the difference between a viable and non-viable service?

Of course, it is possible, depending on clinical need, for clinicians to recommend treatment in England. The hon. Gentleman knows that there are ongoing discussions, some of which are quite difficult, but the intention is obviously to ensure that we get the best health care for everyone. I would urge the Welsh Government, in particular, to consider ways in which they can review how arrangements are made in Wales. There have been calls for a review of hospitals in Wales, not least the one today from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Hospitals such as the Royal Shrewsbury hospital, dealing with patients from both sides of the border, have historically incurred additional administration costs in dealing with the two separate authorities. What work is the Minister doing to find out what the costs are and whether she can help meet them in the future?

We are aware of those additional costs, and I know that my hon. Friend recently met my right hon. and noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health. We are very conscious of those costs and of the difficult decisions. It is the subject of ongoing negotiation between the Welsh Government and NHS England.