On 16th April, I attended a public meeting in St Briavels, organised by Action4OurCare, to update people on progress we have made in fixing the issues with cross-border healthcare which potentially impact about 9,000 of my constituents.
A large number of patients who live in the Forest go to GPs who have a surgery in England, but are registered in Wales. In the recent past, the Aneurin Bevan Health Board (ABHB), in charge of healthcare for nearby areas of Wales, under orders from the Welsh Government, prevented Welsh-registered GPs from referring patients to hospitals in England. This took away the legal right of English residents to a choice of care.
This was clearly an unacceptable situation, as it resulted in many of my constituents facing increased waiting times and poorer services under NHS Wales. These constituents should be able to choose the best quality service available to them, but due to Welsh Government policy were unable to do so. That is why the tireless work that Action4OurCare have done to rectify this problem is so important. While we managed to force ABHB to reverse their policy for English residents, a long term solution still needed to be found.
To this end, I welcome the announcement at the meeting by Dr Marion Andrews-Evans, from the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), that they will shortly be writing to affected constituents to confirm that the CCG will be taking over the commissioning of their secondary healthcare from June this year. This is a real positive step forward, and is the result of three years’ worth of hard campaigning. NHS England, nearby GPs and relevant local councils have been committed to solving this problem, and it’s good to see real progress being made at last.
Dr Andrews-Evans also announced a new Referral Assessment Centre, which will provide affected constituents with the choice that is their legal right. This new centre will aim to contact people shortly after referral from their GP, giving them more choice in which hospital to be treated at. This is an established system that has a proven record of working well.
At the previous public meeting in 2013, it was clear that patients did not want to change GPs. Ministerial colleagues have had to find a solution that allows people to stay with their current Welsh-registered GP, while accessing the service they are entitled to as English residents. We are now in a good place to move forward, and I will continue to closely monitor any new developments.