Everyone across the United Kingdom pays the same amount of tax towards our National Health Service. 

The clue is in the name - and it is manifestly wrong that some people in parts of the UK are waiting over two years for treatment. Patients on long-term NHS waiting lists in Wales should therefore have the right to be seen more quickly by going to hospitals in England. 

The UK Conservative Government wants to work with the Welsh Labour Government, which runs health services in Wales, to help cut waiting times. My Cabinet colleague and UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay has invited ministers from the devolved administrations in both Scotland and Wales to discuss what “lessons can be learnt” to ensure “no part of the UK is left behind”. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made cutting waiting lists across the UK one of his five key priorities and although approaches taken to NHS delivery across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland share many common features, statistics show there are huge differences when it comes to performance. Wales is struggling to resolve the longest waits for treatment, with 70,000 people waiting more than 18 months. 

England has just 17,000 people waiting more than 18 months and has a population 20 times the size of Wales. This is a stark contrast. Steve Barclay has said he would be open to requests for Welsh and Scottish patients who were waiting lengthy periods to be treated in England. 

As Welsh Secretary, it is an approach I welcome and support. People’s health is far more important than politics or boundaries. I know from the many constituency cases I have dealt with over the years how patients in Monmouthshire have requested cross-border treatment. We are offering to give patients in Wales the same rights they would get in England, which is that if they are prepared to travel, they can go to any hospital to receive the treatment they need. 

We are all part of the United Kingdom and patients who want to be treated in England should have that right. I think it is fine and a good thing. This is about aiding collaboration between our nations to share best practices, improve transparency and provide better accountability for patients. I very much hope the Welsh Government will accept the UK Government’s offer of support. Because ensuring we are joined up when it comes to cutting waiting lists and working together to improve performance will ultimately mean patients get seen and treated more quickly.