Health bosses urged to settle disputes as ‘grown-ups’

Arbitration call to solve ban on Welsh patients

The dispute at an English hospital over Welsh patients has been compared to a similar situation affecting Gobowen hospital back in 2006.

Back then, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) in Shropshire had charged Powys Local Health Board (LHB) £1.1m for the last financial year. But an arbitration board has ruled that the LHB should pay just £301,451 – less than half what it originally offered.

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said: “This is the way grown-ups settle disputes – they sit round a table and accept an independent arbitrator’s decision. As it turned out, the decision was that Gobowen’s hospital trust was charging too much for the Welsh patients and the sum was significantly lower than they would have received if they’d taken the Welsh health board’s offer.

“This is in stark contrast to the behaviour of the Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust, which has decided to unilaterally stop treatment of patients while negotiations are ongoing between the NHS in Wales and England about the levels of payment.

“While those negotiations are ongoing, I’m urging the Countess management to do the right thing and start admitting Welsh patients again for new outpatient referrals. A failure to do so would suggest they have another agenda other than ensuring the best possible care for patients.”

He added that hundreds of people had already signed a Plaid Cymru petition calling on the two sides to resolve this problem and allow new outpatients to access services in Chester while negotiations are ongoing: “This is a common-sense approach that would mean patients aren’t penalised while the authorities on both sides of the border come to an agreement. With that in mind, I’d urge everyone to sign the petition so that we can present it to the Countess of Chester Hospital bosses.”

Original story about Gobowen:

A dispute over how much a Welsh health board should have paid an English hospital for treatment last year has been settled through arbitration.

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) in Shropshire had charged Powys Local Health Board (LHB) £1.1m for the last financial year.

But an arbitration board has ruled that the LHB should pay just £301,451 – less than half what it originally offered.

The RJAH said it respected the outcome, which was “final and binding.”

The LHB is yet to sign a contract with the hospital for the 2006-2007.

Conservative Mid and West Wales AM Glyn Davies said arbitration had “no bearing” on this financial year and said patients potentially still faced problems.

The hospital is based at Gobowen, near Oswestry, only a few miles over the border in Shropshire.

About 40% of its patients – thought to run into the thousands – are from Powys and north Wales.

In July, it said it had treated more patients from Powys than it had been paid for.

But the LHB’s chief executive Andy Williams said the board had been “vindicated” by the arbitration process.

“Had we acceded to Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt’s demands we would effectively have been overcharged by £800,000, this money having to be taken out of other aspects of the care of people in Powys,” he said.

Mr Williams added that RJAH had refused a settlement of £644,000 over two years prior to arbitration.

Jackie Daniel, chief executive of RJAH, said the hospital’s trust acknowledged the decision was “final and binding”.

“The decision, although not what we anticipated, does allow us to move on and focus on this year’s contract which must be agreed by 22 September,” she said.

The arbitration board was formed from West Midlands Strategic Health Authority and the Mid and West Wales Regional Office.

Montgomeryshire’s Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates said he would be meeting the health board on Friday to discuss how to move on.

“I’m pleased and relieved for all Powys patients that this dispute has been settled,” he added.

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