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Out of Area Treatment

Health written question – answered on 24th January 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what consideration he has given to the effects of differences in health care commissioning practices between England and the devolved Administrations;

(2) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the cross-border commissioning protocol in ensuring adherence to the principle that no commissioner shall be disadvantaged by providing services to the other country's residents;

(3) what recent discussions he has had on the expiration of the cross-border commissioning protocol; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

While there are very significant areas of commonality in health provision in the home nations, there are already some divergences that reflect the differing local priorities, health being a devolved issue, and it is the responsibility of each administration to identify and address these priorities.

The Department participates in discussions with local health boards in Wales, primary care trusts and the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that funding and commissioning issues arising from the differences in health provision regimes are understood. The cross-border commissioning protocol exists to define the commissioning and payment arrangements for patients living along the Anglo-Welsh border. It is the mechanism through which the two health Departments address the principle that neither commissioners nor patients should be disadvantaged by differences in health commissioning or provision processes between the two countries. The other key principle under the protocol is that the patient's safety and well being must be paramount at all times. No treatment must be refused or delayed due to uncertainty or ambiguity as to funding the health care provision.

The Secretary of State for Health met Ministers of the Welsh Assembly Government on 1 December 2010 and wrote to the Minister of Health and Social Security for the Welsh Assembly Government following the meeting to say that departmental officials remained committed to agreeing an appropriate level of financial transfer to the Welsh Assembly Government arising from issues around national tariff rates and how these are applied to Wales.

The cross-border commissioning protocol is due to expire on 31 March 2011 and officials from the Department are also in discussion with the Welsh Assembly Government with the intention of renewing the protocol, to run seamlessly from 2011. Until the forthcoming changes to the manner in which health care in England is commissioned are finalised in the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament, the intention is that no substantial changes to the cross-border protocol should be introduced. For this reason, the protocol is expected to be renewed for just one year.

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