North Wales health bosses say they are doing everything possible to allow patients living in the region to be treated at the Countess of Chester Hospital once more.
It comes as anger about the hospital’s decision to stop accepting outpatients from over the border has grown, particularly in Flintshire where thousands of people were previously eligible to receive care.
Senior figures from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board gathered today to discuss the issue, which has stemmed from the English trust’s dissatisfaction at the amount it is paid to look after Welsh patients.
During a meeting in Llandudno they expressed their strong desire to resolve the situation following a series of high-level meetings between NHS and government representatives from England and Wales.
Sue Hill, executive director of finance, said: “We are doing everything we can to progress this to a conclusion as we understand the impact it is having on our patients living close to the border with Chester.
“There was a meeting on Tuesday in London where there was a constructive dialogue and we want to resolve this as quickly as we can.
“We have a number of contractual arrangements with English providers for our Welsh patients.
“Unfortunately, with the Countess of Chester, while there has been very constructive dialogue between the two parties, we have not yet got to a conclusion.
“This has been raised at a national level and this issue is ongoing.”
Staff from the North Wales health board have been monitoring the number of referrals received back from the Countess of Chester since the decision took effect at the start of April.
As of last week, 69 referrals had come Betsi Cadwaladr’s way which would previously have gone over the border.
The majority were said to relate to dentistry and orthodontics.
Board members said the amount was less than expected, but could indicate Countess officials were not yet enforcing the change strictly.
Chief executive Gary Doherty warned that if the situation continued, it could add to extra costs being incurred to treat more people within the region.
In a report, he said: “There are a number of key issues which arise from the current situation.
“A proportion of North Wales patients have traditionally accessed the Countess of Chester Hospital both for planned and for emergency care.
“If the access for elective referrals is to be withdrawn over a protracted period of time/indefinitely then provision will need to be made for an increased level of treatment within BCUs provider services for these patients.
“A sustained reduction in activity for North Wales patients at the Countess of Chester Hospital will reduce our costs with them, however, some level of additional cost will be incurred in expanding services within BCU to provide the lost capacity.”
Mr Doherty said he would continue to update board members on the issue.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).