Health and social services

In this section

Will services be affected?
Medical supplies
Preparing for Brexit
Working in health and social care
Reciprocal healthcare

Maintaining high-quality and safe health and social care is our top priority as we prepare the leave the EU.

We are working with every health and social care organisation across Wales to ensure services are protected, as much as possible, from any disruption leaving the EU without a deal could cause.

These preparations have been taking place at a local, Wales and UK level. We are also working with senior leaders from the health and care sector and public health organisations to assess and address the public health and health security concerns.

The Welsh Government’s EU Transition Fund has given funding to projects to support health and care in Wales, including research into the social care workforce; extra resources to support the Food Standards Agency; a public health resilience programme; the Welsh NHS Confederation Brexit transition programme and the ADSS Cymru Brexit transition fund.

Will services be affected?

At this stage, we do not anticipate any immediate impact on day-to-day NHS or social care services. Local care and hospital services will continue to work as normal and we do not expect planned or emergency operations to be cancelled in the event of a no deal Brexit. This includes A&E care, social care, GP and dentist services.

How can you help?

You can help the NHS prepare for Brexit by continuing to Choose Well and choose the right NHS service for your illness or injury. Choose Well will help you decide if you need medical attention if you get sick. It explains what each NHS service does, and when it should be used. This allows NHS services to help the people who need it most. You can also check your symptoms using the NHS Direct Wales Symptom Checker.

Will there be a shortage of medicines and medical supplies?

There has been a lot of press attention about whether prescription medicines will be available in the event of a no deal Brexit.

We have been working with the UK government and the pharmaceutical industry over the last year to maintain the supply of medicines and drugs for people in the event of a no deal.

In Wales, we are taking extra steps to prepare for any disruption to medicines and to maintain supplies of other medical consumables and devices. This will mean that clinicians should not write longer NHS prescriptions and people should not stockpile medicines at home as this could cause disruptions to supply.

People should keep doing what they’ve always done. That means only ordering prescriptions when they are needed, get it dispensed in the usual way and keep taking it in the way it was prescribed.

If you have any concerns about your medicines or your regular prescription, you should talk to your local pharmacist in the first instance.

Supply of radioisotopes

There have also been concerns about the availability of radioisotopes, which are used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer if the UK is no longer part of Euratom. Due to the half-life of the isotope, it is not possible to stockpile supplies. Radioisotope is usually imported overnight from continental Europe via Dover and distributed by road. This relies on frictionless customs arrangements and unimpeded transit between continental Europe and the UK.

The UK government, as part of its medicines supply programme, is working to mitigate the risk of disruption to the supply of radioisotope and secure a reliable supply.

How local authorities, health boards and NHS trusts are preparing for Brexit

Health boards, NHS trusts and local authorities have reviewed their existing resilience plans in the context of a no-deal Brexit and are working with their partners in their local resilience forums. These plans will be tested as part of the wider public service preparations.

Local authorities and independent and third sector social care providers are responsible for social care in Wales. We are working closely with them to co-ordinate their preparations for a no deal Brexit.

The Welsh NHS Confederation has published an FAQ document about Brexit in health and social care, which is aimed at people working in the NHS and social care sectors.

UK: EU nationals working in health and social care

EU citizens have always been, and will continue to be welcome in Wales. EU nationals play a valuable role in providing health and social care services in Wales and we value each person and the work they do in health and social care.

From March 30, 2019, EU citizens and their families living in the UK can apply for the Home Office’s Settled Status scheme. This will mean they can continue to live and work in Wales following Brexit.

The Home Office has published the following advice if you are an EU citizen; an organisation employing EU staff or are recruiting from the EU:

  • EU citizens in the UK – Stay Informed, provides information about the citizens’ rights agreement and the Settlement Scheme for EU citizens in the UK.
  • If EU citizens want to stay in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, they and their close family members will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme will open fully by March 2019. 
  • A toolkit has been launched to equip employers with tools and information to support EU citizens and their families about the EU Settlement Scheme.

The UK government has launched an Prepare for EU exit campaign to give individuals and businesses advice about how preparations and the steps they may need to take.

Wales: EU nationals working in health and social care

Earlier this year, the Welsh Government commissioned Ipsos Mori to undertake a piece of research looking at the make-up of the social care and childcare workforce in Wales to help identify how many of EU nationals are employed in the sector in order to support them and their employers. The report found that an estimated 6.4% of staff within registered social care settings and 4.5% of staff within registered childcare services in Wales are non-UK EU nationals, showing that EU nationals make up a relatively small but important part of the workforce. However, when viewed against the broader context of existing staffing challenges in the sectors, the report indicates that the impact of the UK leaving the EU is likely to exacerbate existing workforce pressures.

We recognise the importance of maintaining mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ) for the health and social care workforce. This will support the movement of health and social care professionals across Europe.

In the event of a no deal Brexit we anticipate existing EU and international qualifications will continue to be recognised for a fixed period. We are working with the UK government to develop the necessary legislation to support this.

Reciprocal healthcare arrangements

The UK government is currently looking at the future arrangements for reciprocal healthcare. The current reciprocal healthcare rights which we have as members of the EU include:

  • state pensioners have full access to healthcare in the country they retire to
  • the free EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) allows people temporarily visiting another member state to receive emergency healthcare
  • posted and frontier workers are able to benefit from local healthcare rights
  • UK patients are able to exercise the right to planned medical treatment in another EU/EEA country
  • UK patients are able to purchase healthcare services across the EEA and apply for reimbursement from the UK.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK government will aim to continue the reciprocal healthcare arrangement as far as this can be negotiated.

The House of Commons is currently considering legislation to put new reciprocal healthcare agreements in place. While some of the rights we currently have to reciprocal healthcare may continue through different mechanisms, they may not be available across the whole of the EU. Read the latest.

We are working with the UK government to ensure the interests of Wales are properly recognised and represented.

Data protection

Following Brexit, the rules about how personal data flows between the EU and the UK will change. Visit the Information Commissioner’s website to find out more about how these changes will affect you or your organisation.

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