Desperate NHS patients waiting more than a year for treatment in Scotland and Wales could be referred to England

13 August 2023, 08:08

Patients in Scotland and Wales could be referred to England
Patients in Scotland and Wales could be referred to England. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

NHS patients in Scotland and Wales who are stuck on waiting lists for lengthy periods could be referred to England for treatment, the Health Secretary has said.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Steve Barclay said he was "open to requests" for referrals to England from the devolved nations amid record waiting times.

Mr Barclay invited Michael Matheson and Eluned Morgan, the Scottish and Welsh health ministers, to discuss what "lessons can be learnt" from how health services are run in the three nations.

He suggested he would consider appeals for people waiting for lengthy periods in Wales and Scotland to be treated by the NHS or independent providers in England.

Mr Matheson suggested the UK Government should focus on the "many issues south of the border", while Labour's Wes Streeting said the "only advice the Tories are qualified to offer is how to wreck the NHS".

Read more: Junior doctors' walkout could see number of NHS cancellations caused by strikes soar past one million, LBC told

Read more: Junior doctors’ strikes costing NHS £1bn as health secretary labels fresh wave of industrial action ‘reckless’

Steve Barclay
Steve Barclay. Picture: Alamy

In a press release, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there are "significant variations" in NHS waiting times between the four UK nations.

"In Wales, more than 73,000 people are waiting over 77 weeks for treatment, and at least 21,600 people are waiting over 78 weeks for an outpatient, day case or inpatient appointment in Scotland," it said.

"In England, waiting times for patients over 78 weeks have been virtually eliminated."

Mr Barclay said: "I want to support collaboration between our nations to share best practices, improve transparency and provide better accountability for patients.

NHS waiting lists are at record levels
NHS waiting lists are at record levels. Picture: Alamy

"This will help to ensure we are joined up when it comes to cutting waiting lists - one of the Government's top five priorities - and will allow us to better work together to improve performance and get patients seen more quickly."

Mr Matheson pointed to record waiting lists and ongoing strikes in England as examples of problems affecting the service south of the border.

"The NHS in England is about to experience its fifth round of strikes by junior doctors, with the waiting list for hospital treatment rising by over 100,000 to a record high of over 7.5 million as a result of the UK Government's refusal to even get around the negotiating table," he said.

"Rather than attempting to involve themselves in devolved areas, the UK Government would be well served focusing on tackling the many issues in the health service south of the border.

"In contrast, the Scottish Government has negotiated constructively and made significant commitments to our junior doctors - which is why we are the only part of the UK to have avoided strike action in our NHS this year."

Shelagh Fogarty reacts to 'diabolical' NHS waiting list

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Wales includes more referrals in its waiting times statistics than England does. Long waiting times are falling every month in Wales and have more than halved in the past year.

"The overall growth in waiting lists in Wales has been smaller in Wales than in England over the last 12 months - it grew by 3.6% in Wales and by 12.1% in England. Wales has also outperformed England in major emergency department performance in nine out of the last 10 months.

"In Wales patients are treated according to clinical urgency."

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "What's next, the Conservatives offering advice on bringing mortgage costs down?

"The only advice the Tories are qualified to offer is how to wreck the NHS and cause the biggest strikes in its history.

"If they've given up governing, they should step aside so Labour can give Britain the fresh start it needs."