Welsh Government told to pick up the pace of Brexit preparations in health & social care

(Title Image: The Independent)

External Affairs Committee
Brexit preparedness of healthcare and the medicines sector (pdf)
Published: 3rd December 2018

“This report lays bare the significant number of challenges that would be faced by the healthcare and medicines sector in Wales in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“The concerns encompass a range of issues including the continued supply of medicines, arrangements for reciprocal healthcare and issues relating to the health and social care workforce after Brexit.”
– Committee Chair, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon)

1. Communication is improving but hasn’t been great

The Committee heard from a number of witnesses that there’s still a level of uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for health and social care.

The NHS Confederation has agreed to hold Brexit FAQ sessions with Welsh Government help and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said strategic planning has begun – including for a “No Deal” – but a theme throughout the report was a need for “deeper and faster communication” despite improvements since the start of the year.

The First Minister told the Committee the Welsh Government weren’t preparing any specific “No Deal” advice but would supplement UK Government advice – which he likened to war preparations – where necessary.

2. The UK a net importer of medicines from the EU, with a particular concern over radioisotopes

45 million packs of medicines are imported to the UK from the EU every year, with 37 million packs moving in the other direction. Continuing this supply – particularly as a result of a “No Deal” (there will be some formal arrangements in place if the draft withdrawal agreement comes into place) – was said by witnesses to be on the forefront of everyone’s mind; costs relating to warehousing and additional air supplies need to be considered.

BMA Cymru expressed particular concerns over access to radioisotopes – used in radiology diagnostics and to treat cancer – after Brexit, deal or no deal. The UK will be leaving Euratom and may not be able to legally obtain radioisotopes after Brexit without some form of co-operation on regulations and standards.

3. Urgent research is needed to determine the impact of Brexit on the social care workforce

About 1.6% of the total NHS workforce in Wales is an EU or EEA national and that rises to 6.4% of doctors. Witnesses from the NHS said the benefits of free movement went beyond merely workforce planning and includes sharing of research and a wider training pool at home and abroad.

However, there’s a total lack of reliable data on EU nationals working in the social care sector. The First Minister said £200,000 has been allocated to research the impact of Brexit on the social care sector.

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