Wales and cross-border health services report

27 March 2009

A report published today by the Welsh Affairs Committee calls for greater coordination between the UK and Welsh Assembly Governments on cross-border health services and sees this as a high priority

The Committee also welcomes First Minister Rhodri Morgan’s commitment to Welsh patients receiving treatment as near as possible to their homes, even if that is in England.

The report, which looks at the provision of cross-border health services, says an improved protocol agreed between the Welsh Assembly Government and the UK Department of Health is essential in order to standardise and clarify arrangements and accountability mechanisms and ensure patients are clear about the services available to them.

The failure so far to introduce a permanent protocol risks adversely affecting patients and the Committee is disturbed by the fact that not even a draft protocol has been published for consultation.

The report finds that hospitals and commissioners on both sides of the border have made local arrangements in order to cope with the different funding systems for English and Welsh patients and it urges that financial arguments must not be allowed to endanger patient care.

Decision-making on both sides of the border should be more coordinated, coherent and transparent. Better information for patients must be made available and patients should understand the framework in which they receive care.

The Committee was concerned by anecdotal evidence suggesting English residents with an interest in Welsh health services may find their engagement in those services limited, and recommends that the Department of Health considers this in negotiations with the Welsh Assembly Government so there is parity of patients’ rights.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hywel Francis MP, said:

"We welcomed the First Minister’s assurance in evidence to the Committee that the border will not become a barrier to meeting patients’ needs and providing treatment as close to home as possible. This is against a background where all relevant health bodies recognise that there is an established movement of patients between England and Wales for healthcare and often the nearest hospital will be across the border.

"There needs to be a much more effective agreement between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Health about who pays for which treatments. It is to the credit of clinicians and administrators that high quality health care continues to be provided to patients despite disputes over funding. It is not fair to hospitals or to patients to allow these issues to become a matter for argument when they should be resolved by a government protocol."

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