NHS Finance

09.04.19

English hospital to stop accepting Welsh patients in ‘unacceptable’ funding row

An English hospital has said it will no longer take in patients from Wales except for emergencies or maternity cases, leading to the first minister to say that Welsh funding will therefore have to stop.

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS FT announced that it is unable to book elective care appointments for patients living in Wales, affecting thousands of people in Flintshire.

The chief executive of the trust Susan Gilby said it was a “difficult decision that has been taken with great reluctance” because of unresolved funding issues.

GPs in Wales will no longer be able to refer patients for treatment over the border to the Countess of Chester hospital, and any new elective work relating to patients from Wales will not be accepted, although all the trust said it will honour any existing appointments.

This follows a row over payments to the hospital for providing care for Welsh patients, but the Welsh Government stated it had not taken the decision and said limiting access to Welsh patients on financial grounds was “unacceptable.”

Speaking at a Welsh Assembly Scrutiny Committee, first minister Mark Drakeford said that if the Countess of Chester did not provide services to Welsh patients, then funding from Wales “is not going to flow to them in future.”

Drakeford said the hospital trust will “have to face up to the facts” and stated: “There is a very direct interest that they have at stake here, which they sometimes, seems to me, underplay in the public statements that they make.

“Welsh patients are part of their bottom line, in the way that the English system is run.”

He said the focus should be on reaching a “sensible agreement” between the two sides, but stressed that “we have always paid our bills.”

Chief executive Gilby said it was mindful of the hospital’s position close to the border and that contract negotiations are continuing.

“I am grateful to the senior leadership team at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board for continuing to work hard in partnership with us to resolve this issue.”

The Royal College of GPs said the decision was one which “fails to put patients first” and called on the Welsh Government, health boards and the hospital to find a constructive solution as quickly as possible.

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