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NHS (North-East and Scotland)

Volume 586: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2014

10. If he will take steps to encourage greater co-operation between the NHS in north-east England and in Scotland. (905547)

Of course, it is important that the national health services in all four parts of the UK work together. Good examples of that are happening at the moment on major public health issues, as my right hon. Friend can imagine. Providers in England can and do treat patients referred from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, we put emphasis on enabling patients to choose where they will be treated, not on restricting that choice to providers in England.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if someone’s nearest hospital or health centre is on the other side of the border, the health bureaucracy should not set up artificial barriers to access and any advice the Department gives should reflect that principle?

I am aware that this concern has been highlighted for my right hon. Friend by a very difficult constituency issue with regard to Northumberland clinical commissioning group. To be clear, the CCG is free to commission services from Scottish providers if it wishes to do so. No one instructs a CCG on where to commission services from—that is a decision for the CCG and one of the strengths of the system. Convenience may not be the most important factor in making that decision, but CCGs need to be assured of quality and standards. I am happy to talk to my right hon. Friend further about his particular case.