Jesse Norman writes to The Editor, Hereford Times...
Patti Fender is absolutely right to continue to push for full rights for English patients forced to use the Welsh NHS, and I hugely respect her passion on an issue on which we have worked closely together.
But Patti is wrong to suggest that I have misled local people about this. To the contrary: I have been quite explicit that the agreement with the Aneurin Bevan Health Board is just a temporary victory, and that we need a long-term solution.
Just to recall: I have been fighting on this issue, alongside other MPs and public groups, since March 2013. In June 2013 my Parliamentary Questions revealed that over 3,500 people living in Herefordshire were registered with Welsh GPs. Later that month I secured a debate in the House of Commons because I was concerned that the cross-border agreement between NHS England and NHS Wales was not giving these people full access to hospitals and other care in England.
In late July 2013 the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, which is responsible for healthcare in South Wales, confirmed that they had changed their policy towards patients living in Herefordshire so that they would again be able to receive treatment in English hospitals. Whilst I welcomed this development, I made clear that it does not go far enough, and that what is needed are permanent changes to the cross-border agreement, which recognise the rights of people living in England.
I have continued to press the point, and last month the Welsh Affairs Select Committee announced an Inquiry into cross-border healthcare arrangements. Patti and I will be meeting soon to discuss the best approach to this Inquiry, and I would urge anyone affected to make a submission to the Inquiry, details of which are online, by 20 August.
I have also written to community groups in the border areas of my constituency to encourage them to respond, and as usual I will be publishing my own response to the consultation on my website www.jesse4hereford.com.