Fury as English trust withdraws support for Welsh patients

Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust has said in a statement that “for the time being” it will no longer book new routine elective care appointments for patients living in Wales.

This decision will affect thousands of people living in Flintshire who have routinely used the Trust.  Chief Executive Susan Gilby blamed the decision on a funding dispute, saying:

“Unfortunately, the Trust is currently unable to accept any new elective work relating to patients living in Wales. We will of course honour any existing appointments so there will be no disruption for patients already waiting.

“This is a difficult decision that has been taken with great reluctance. At The Countess we are mindful of our position close to the border, with many of our patients and staff coming from both England and Wales.

“Unfortunately, this is a step we have had to take as a result of unresolved funding issues. However, 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.”

While the Trust will continue to honour appointments for existing patients, a Welsh government spokesman told Nursing Times that the move was “unacceptable”.

He said:

“Along with NHS Wales representatives, Welsh government has agreed a process of engagement with Department of Health and Social Care officials and representatives from the English NHS to discuss cross-border payment arrangements.

“In the context of ongoing engagement, any actions taken by English providers to limit access for Welsh patients on financial grounds are unacceptable and not in the spirit of reaching a cross-border agreement with English NHS representatives,” he added.

The move has angered North Wales political leaders, who claim the move was ‘unprofessional’ and made without consultation.

Jack Sargeant, AM, said:

“Health conditions know no borders, neither should the health service. I am writing as a matter of urgency to seek more information from the Welsh Government’s Health Minister on this issue.”

Colin Everett, CEO of Flintshire County Council said in a statement on Twitter:

“There has been no consultation with Flintshire on behalf of local communities, or prior notice. This is grossly unprofessional and I will be in personal contact with the COCH CEO this week.”