THE county’s cash-strapped hospital trust has to find around £12m a year to cover the cost of Welsh patients who can’t go home.

At any one time, Wye Valley NHS Trust (WVT) can be caring for up to a dozen patients transferred out of NHS Wales and waiting for struggling health and social services across the border to put care packages in place before they can be discharged.

WVT can claim back the care cost – an annual average of £12million -  through a tariff system that pays per person.

But such claims don’t come back quickly and, as reported by the Hereford Times, WVT faces a £15million deficit of its own without financial support.

A report prepared for a meeting of the WVT board this week acknowledges a number of beds are blocked at Hereford County Hospital (HCH) as delays in repatriating Welsh patients continued.

New WVT chief executive Richard Beeken has written to the NHS Wales highlighting the plight of eight Welsh patients currently under the hospital’s

 “We appreciate the difficulties associated with putting these care packages in place and we acknowledge the financial pressure both the NHS in Wales and the social service teams in Welsh local councils find themselves under,” said Mr Beeken.

“It’s really important that we can admit sick people who need care and treatment, but it’s equally important patients only stay as long as they need to.

“We’re in dialogue with colleagues across the border to ensure we have an undertaking that all is being done to allow Welsh patients to be discharged home as soon as possible,” he said.

WVT planning puts a strong focus on discharge to improve patient flow through the hospital.

Last month, the Hereford Times revealed the extent of operations being cancelled  because Hereford County Hospital did not have enough beds.

Around 120 operations were cancelled in May, up from 113 in April.

Figures for June show 23 non-clinical cancellations on day of surgery and a further 25 cancelled the day before.

Around 30% of cancellations were due to lack of beds and eight failures of the 28 day rebooking target in the month were mostly due to a lack of capacity.

Some of the Welsh patients have been transferred to stay in community hospitals to ease the pressure on beds at the County.

Last year, the Hereford Times highlighted the “postcode lottery” that pushed NHS patients on the Herefordshire side of the Welsh border into NHS Wales for hospital treatment.

MP Jesse Norman  took up the cause and the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, which covers much of mid and south Wales, announced policy changes that made it easier for border patients to use the hospital of their choice.