Border Hospital Care ‘in Turmoil’

Patients in mid Wales are suffering because of a “shambolic situation” in health care on the Wales-England border, an assembly member has claimed. Glyn Davies says arrangements to treat Powys patients at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH), in Shropshire, are in “turmoil”.

Powys Local Health Board and RJAH are in dispute over funding for the treatment of mid Wales patients there. RJAH said it had treated more people from Powys than it had been paid for. The local health board (LHB), which is facing a £4.8m budget deficit, is in arbitration with RJAH over the contractual dispute.

The LHB said it had to pay more for its patients to receive treatment in England, and additional costs had to be managed within its budget. The RJAH is only a few miles from the border with Powys, and about 40% of its patients are from Wales.

One patient affected, Joyce Wallis, 77, lives in Llanfyllin – 15 miles from the hospital. Mrs Wallis, who may need major hip surgery, now fears she may have to travel to south Wales for treatment.

Her husband Reginald, 80, said she had received treatment at the Shropshire hospital for 20 years. Mr Wallis said: “We visited a consultant at RJAH who my wife has been seeing for years, but he didn’t realise we were from Powys until the end of our discussion.

“The specialist said the only way he could treat my wife was if we moved from Powys to England, because of a disagreement over funding.”

Sian Griffiths, 37, from Newtown, was due to have an operation at RJAH, but was told last week it had been cancelled over the dispute. Ms Griffiths said she was devastated because she has suffered with back pain for 18 years and relies on crutches and doses of morphine.

Conservative Mid and West Wales AM Glyn Davies, who met Powys LHB’s chairman this week, said there were many more patients in the same predicament.

He said: “I am deeply concerned about what is a truly shambolic situation which surrounds the present and future of orthopaedic services in Powys.

“Powys patients are deeply concerned about what is going to happen to them and whether they will not be treated anything like as quickly as they have the right to expect.

“The future of orthopaedics in Powys is in turmoil.”

Powys LHB said it had taken control of the orthopaedic waiting list and would decide who was treated and where. It said some patients would still be seen by doctors at the RJAH.

“Clinicians will still set the clinical priority, but the patient will be referred through the local health board and not through the district general hospital,” said a spokesman.

The RJAH refused to comment about its patients, but a spokeswoman said: “The trust does have the capacity and would wish to treat Powys patients.
However, it cannot afford to treat patients it will not get paid for.”

The Welsh Assembly Government said it was aware of the impact English payment policy was having on the NHS in Wales.

A spokesman said officials were in “regular discussions with the Department of Health to reduce the effect in Wales”.