We hear, often headlined, the single cases of NHS Scotland patients travelling to London for specialist care, such as for Ebola, not available in Scotland or for access to expensive drugs not approved here.
Far more significant, but rarely reported in our Nomedia, are examples of large numbers being transferred from a system ten times its size, into NHS Scotland, because of shortages in NHS England.
In the Guardian yesterday:
‘At least 154 vulnerable patients, mainly women and some teenagers, had to travel hundreds of miles from their homes in order to receive residential care in Glasgow and Edinburgh, costing the NHS millions of pounds annually. The data, obtained under freedom of information from NHS England, is the first of its kind to be revealed. Official figures showed that in 2017-18, caring for English eating disorder patients in Scotland cost £5.1m, compared with £4.5m the year before and £2.2m in 2014-15. Mental health experts expressed alarm and blamed the NHS’s use of cross-border care on an acute lack of both beds in mental health units and specialist staff to look after patients. They said care further from home could damage patients’ chances of recovery, increase their sense of isolation through the separation from their families and even raise their risk of dying.’
See this from only one English Board in July 2017:
‘Mental health patients in Oxfordshire have been wrenched from their families and forced to travel as far as Scotland to receive care and treatment. As many as 478 residents with mental health problems have been sent out of the county in the past three years, with the furthest travelling 532 miles to New Craigs Hospital in Inverness. The British Medical Association (BMA) found that patients of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust had to travel some of the greatest distances of anyone in the country.’
These are very large numbers being supported by NHS Scotland and, all things being fair, headline stories for our Nomedia.
It is inevitable that any small country such as Scotland, Belgium or Denmark will find itself sending patients with rare conditions to specialist facilities in larger countries such as England, France or Germany. It’s one of the things the EU was built to do efficiently but the proportionately heavy traffic of regular cases from England to Scotland suggest the smaller country is, in this case, subsidising the larger one.