No guarantee of cross border healthcare

Berwick Infirmary.
Berwick Infirmary.
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Current cross-border healthcare arrangements are not guaranteed to continue if Scotland votes for independence in September.

In the last ten years 21,899 Borders patients have had outpatient appointments and 3,391 inpatient appointments in England and when local MSP John Lamont asked the Department of Health if this could continue if Scotland becomes independent, no guarantee could be given.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Jane Ellison, said: “I can confirm that no agreement has been made between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive on what cross-border health agreements would apply if Scotland were to become independent.

“In the event of a vote for independence, the Scottish Executive would need to discuss future arrangements with the UK on various issues, as it cannot be assumed that the current procedures would continue to apply.”

John Lamont said: “The cross-border care arrangements currently in place between Scotland and England are vital for thousands of Borders patients. For many of them it helps to ensure that they can receive care more quickly.

“Should Scotland vote to leave the union this September it is far from certain that Borders patients would continue to receive cross-border care.

“I know that this will come as a concern to the thousands of Borders patients who every year benefit from being able to access healthcare in England. To lose this ability would not only prove to be a massive inconvenience to them, it could also restrict their access to important medical care.”

“As much as the SNP like to dismiss these concerns as ‘scaremongering’, this letter simply proves that there is no way they can guarantee what cross-border care would look like in a separate Scotland.”

Responding to the latest pre-referendum cross-border debacle, South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse (SNP) said: “John Lamont is beginning to sound like a broken record. And a desperate one at that. It is utterly appalling that he continues to pedal such a negative line and it is now clear that he has chosen to play politics with the fears of some of our most vulnerable constituents.

“The Scottish Government has made clear in ‘Scotland’s Future’ that independence ‘will not mean ending current cross-border arrangements with health services in the rest of the UK, which have continued even though the NHS in Scotland already operates separately.

“The Tories are pulling out all the stops to fear-monger as they realise the possibilities and opportunities independence will deliver for the people of Scotland are being appreciated by an ever increasing proportion of the population of the Scottish Borders and Scotland.”