Wales politics

Countess of Chester Hospital: Welsh patient funding row resolved

Front entrance to the Countess of Chester Hospital Image copyright PA
Image caption About a fifth of Countess of Chester Hospital's patients are from north east Wales

A funding dispute in which an English hospital refused to take patients from Wales, apart from emergency and maternity cases, has been resolved.

Thousands of people in Flintshire had routinely been using the Countess of Chester Hospital before the row.

Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething said a new cross-border funding deal had now been agreed with UK ministers.

Whitehall said it would pay for normal service to resume, with a rise in Welsh Government payments in future.

The hospital announced last month it would take fewer patients from Wales, but that it hoped to reverse the decision once a "national agreement" had been reached.

In a written statement on Friday, Mr Gething said he expected the hospital to "honour the agreement reached and reverse the decision not to accept new elective referrals for Welsh patients".

He said he remained "disappointed" with the action the hospital taken "whilst negotiations were ongoing".

"This was wholly avoidable and a transparent breach of the agreed protocol on cross border healthcare," he said.

Image caption Vaughan Gething said he hoped patients would be reassured by his statement

Mr Gething said changes to "tariff costs in England since 2017" had created a "complex set of issues in relation to cross border arrangements" but Wales would now be represented on the body advising on those charges.

"We need to fully track policy developments in England that will potentially impact on the tariff in future to aid planning in the Welsh context," he added.

UK Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: "We will provide the necessary funding for this year so that normal services can resume for local residents with the Welsh Government committing to cover the costs in future years.

"We sympathise with anyone who was inconvenienced or adversely affected and I'm pleased this is now resolved."

Acting Welsh Tory health spokesman Darren Millar said his assembly group would be "keeping a close eye on how the Welsh Government moves forward with this situation, holding it to account and ensuring patients are not left to suffer again thanks to its disastrous inability to plan ahead with our healthcare system".

Susan Gilby, chief executive officer for the Countess of Chester NHS trust, said she was "grateful" to the two governments and NHS England for "working hard together to resolve this issue".

"We now look forward to agreeing a contract with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in the knowledge that all patients will benefit from the planned safety investments enabled by appropriate resources," she added.

Betsi Cadwaladr health board chief executive Gary Doherty said: "We will continue to work closely with the Countess of Chester Hospital to reinstate referrals and ensure that east Flintshire patients can access the services they need at the most appropriate hospital for them."

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