Ministers agree to help solve cross-border health access problems

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith has met Health Minister Jane Ellison MP and Scotland Office Minister David Mundell to discuss problems patients in North Northumberland and the Borders are having with access to health services across the border, including Borders General Hospital and Berwick Infirmary, and with cross-border ambulance service cooperation.

Commenting after the meeting Sir Alan said: “Patients should not be turned away from either Borders General or Berwick Infirmary because they live on the other side of the border, unless there are good medical reasons to refer them to a hospital further away.

“The Health Ministers were very supportive of my view that on this issue, health bodies should listen to the views of patients and should not put bureaucratic obstacles in their way.

“They have assured me that there has been no instruction from the NHS nationally that patients cannot be treated across the border, and also that in emergency cases it is up to the judgement of the ambulance staff on the spot as to which hospital the patient is taken to, according to clinical need.

“I have been worried that myths and misleading advice are causing real problems for patients in the Berwick area: I welcome the assurances I have been given and I now want to see them carried out locally and reflected in the advice given to GPs, ambulance staff, and the call handlers in the ambulance control centre.

“Call handlers also need to understand when they need to seek the help of the Scottish ambulance service if they can reach an emergency or urgent case more quickly because the Berwick ambulance is not available.

“We also discussed the problems for patients who have been told that they do not qualify for transport to appointments in distant hospitals, even when they are unable to drive or get a lift; ministers are discussing how this problem can be reduced by making more treatments available locally and by ensuring that the GP can flag up to the ambulance service the fact that a particular patient may need transport help to get to appointments in Wansbeck or Newcastle hospitals.”