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Cross-Border Health Care

Volume 593: debated on Wednesday 4 March 2015

6. What discussions he has had with the Welsh Minister for Health on cross-border health care provision. (907773)

Wales Office Ministers hold regular discussions with Ministers in the Welsh Government on a range of issues, including the provision of health care services along the England and Wales border. We will continue to review current arrangements to ensure that they meet patients’ needs on both sides of the border.

A major problem facing rural Wales is difficulty in attracting GPs to come to work in Wales, and one reason for that is the bureaucracy involved in GPs having to go through a process of specific Welsh registration. Will the Minister work with the Welsh Government and the Department of Health to bring forward a common registration programme for Wales and England?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We want the greatest flexibility in the NHS work force across the whole United Kingdom. The regulatory burden and bureaucracy involved is unacceptable, and the Department of Health and Welsh Government are working together with the support of the Wales Office to put that right.

Many health services for my constituents are delivered from England by specialist hospitals. Why do the Secretary of State and the Minister want to take away the voice of MPs from Wales to speak up on behalf of their constituents and look after their interests?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise. Welsh MPs will still be here fighting for their constituents and ensuring the best care for them, be it on the Welsh or English side of the border. That is what we will be elected for.

Rural GP practices are at particular risk, as shown by the proposed closure of the Llanwrtyd GP surgery, and patients will have nowhere to go. Will the Minister make representations not only to the Royal College of General Practitioners but to the Wales Deanery, to encourage more GPs?

That is a matter for the Welsh Government, but I will happily raise that point. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) underlines the fact that flexibility would create greater opportunity to try to fill those gaps.

Will the Minister concede that one of the main problems with the health service in Wales is underfunding, on which the new announcement on further devolution has signally failed to deliver?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about funding, and there have been many debates in the Chamber about the funding of the NHS in England and in Wales. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) once said, Aneurin Bevan would turn in his grave if he thought that a Welsh Labour Government were cutting the NHS budget while a Conservative Government in Westminster were growing the NHS budget.