An English hospital refusing referrals from Wales for “urgent suspected cancer” due to a funding row is completely unacceptable, says Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM.
The Countess of Chester Hospital (CoCH) stopped taking new outpatient referrals from Wales on April 1st due to a dispute over funding from NHS Wales.
It is estimated that as many as 700 people a month living in Wales – many from Flintshire – will be affected by the decision not to accept any new elective referrals.
The move does not impact maternity patients, those attending the Accident and Emergency Department and patients from North Wales who are already waiting for treatment at the CoCH.
It does however relate to referrals in to all specialties, including urgent suspected cancer and both urgent and routine planned – known as elective – referrals.
Last week Welsh Government Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, said it was “unacceptable” for the Countess of Chester hospital not to accept certain patients living in Wales.
He said: “Funding from treating patients from Wales has always been and continues to be essential to the viability of CoCH.”
“The Countess of Chester hospital action relates to a significant change to the structure of the tariff system and rates that determine the amounts payable to provider trusts in England for treatment of patients.
“This tariff system technically does not apply to cross-border healthcare but has previously been used as the basis for payment to provide consistency.
“The tariff rate changes agreed for 2019/20 by NHS England agencies include additional costs from staff pay deals that should not be chargeable to NHS Wales organisations.
“To agree the financial impact for Wales, my officials have agreed a process of direct engagement with the Department for Health and Social Care officials, along with representatives from NHS Wales and the NHS England.”
“Funding from treating patients from Wales has always been and continues to be essential to the viability of CoCH.”
However Plaid Cymru AM, Llyr Gruffydd said the situation was “unacceptable” and called for the situation to be resolved immediately.
“It’s taken 10 days to get a Welsh Government statement and that only flags up greater concerns,” said Mr Gruffydd.
“It strikes me that refusing treatment on the basis of ability to pay goes against the entire ethos of the NHS and must be making many doctors feel very uncomfortable.
“So why has the Welsh Government only woken up now that the Countess of Chester has refused to accept patients for Wales? This is a long-running issue and was flagged up by CoCH’s chair six months ago.
“Vaughan Gething’s statement is a masterpiece of complacency – his government is in direct charge of Betsi Cadwaladr health board and has failed to resolve this issue before CoCH pressed the nuclear button.
“I think CoCH’s decision to use patients as bargaining chips in this funding dispute is shocking but I’m equally appalled at the Welsh Government’s failure to resolve the matter in good time.
“Stating that a meeting will take place ‘later in April’ smacks of a government that’s asleep at the wheel.”