Monmouth MP David Davies has claimed new guidelines banning Welsh patients from being treated in English hospitals prove “beyond doubt” that the National Health Service no longer exists.
Instead, Mr Davies said a series of regional health services had been created which restrict patient choice.
His comments follow the publication of new rules relating to cross-border treatment by Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
A document, entitled Improving Local Services: Changes to Hospital Referrals, states: “When you attend an appointment with your GP, your doctor may feel that you need to be referred to hospital for diagnosis or treatment.
At the present time, your doctor may refer you to a hospital in England or Wales.
“From September 2012, GPs and other clinically qualified NHS staff in Gwent will direct referrals to services within Gwent hospitals as much as possible. This is provided that the expertise and space is available at one of our own hospitals to carry out the treatment required. Where these services are not available locally, the Health Board will look to provide the treatment in another NHS service in Wales.”
According to the document, the changes apply to new referrals for treatment considered by doctors not to be immediately life threatening, such as cataracts, surgical problems and routine diagnostic tests.
It therefore does not apply to patients who are in the middle of a course of hospital treatment or package of care.
Mr Davies said: I have suspected for some time now that the Welsh Government wants all patients to be treated in Wales, even when it is far less convenient for patients who may live closer to appropriate facilities on the English side of the border.
“I believe patients in Wales should have a choice of where to be treated, especially given that their taxes are paying for the NHS across the UK.
“What this proves beyond doubt is that we longer have a “national” health service in any meaningful sense of the word, but a series of regional health services where different rules apply.
“Also, standards in Wales are lower than in England and that is not just my opinion. It is confirmed by a recent National Audit Office report on healthcare across the UK.”
Mr Davies also revealed he had received a letter from Dr Adrian Peall, consultant rheumatologist at County Hospital in Hereford, which amounts to a “very strong criticism” of health policies in Wales.
“In Hereford in particular we are in the position where we are serving a number of patients in Wales and yet we still come up against these cross-border problems,” writes Dr Peall.
“There does seem to be a needless layer of bureaucracy created by the juxtaposition of the Welsh and English NHS systems with respect to the Welsh borders. This system has the potential to disadvantage patients who live in Wales as they are not afforded the choice of hospital, consultant and waiting time which is easily available to patients in England.
“I appreciate that the choice aspect of healthcare is a political decision underpinned by the policies of the Welsh (Government). However, I feel it is important to raise this issue with regards to the particular impact it has on patients in the border regions”.