Borders NHS patients ‘denied treatment in Berwick’

Berwickshire patients have been told they can no longer use NHS services across the border in Berwick, according to the Liberal Democrats.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th June 2014, 4:37 pm
Berwick Infirmary
Berwick Infirmary

The party said it had uncovered “recent changes” which it says have led to patients who live in the Borders being told they must get treatment in Scottish hospitals – even if they live just a couple of miles from Berwick Infirmary.

As a result, Lib Dems in Northumberland and the Borders have joined forces to fight for patients’ right to use NHS services on both sides of the border.

The development has come to light three months before the Scottish independence referendum, raising questions about how cross-border health arrangements would work in the event of a Yes vote in September.

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The Scottish National Party has previously dismissed the Better Together camp’s fears about the future of cross-border services as “scaremongering”. It has maintained that existing cross-border arrangements would not be affected by independence.

However, Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith has tabled questions in the House of Common on an issue he believes is already being put to the test.

He said: “The SNP government in Scotland and the Scottish NHS seem to be putting up barriers at the border before the people of Scotland have even had the chance to vote on whether this is the kind of separation they want. Health treatment and care is too important to be blocked by artificial borders.”

Liberal Democrat activist Julie Pörksen, who is campaigning to succeed Sir Alan as the area’s MP when he retires next May, added: “There has been a long-standing agreement that patients from either side of the border should be able to get the treatment they need wherever it is available. This means people from Berwick having cataract operations or in-patient treatment at Borders General Hospital, and people from the borders being able to use physiotherapy and other services at Berwick.

“It is simply ludicrous that people from just outside Berwick, who use the town for work, shopping and other services, are now being told to travel further for their treatment so they – and the payment for treating them – remains inside Scotland.

“There does not appear to be a restriction preventing people from the English side of the border from using services in Scotland, but Michael Moore, Alan and I are determined that cross-border use of services must be allowed to continue – in both directions.”