Over the past 1000 days or so since the vote to leave the EU, it’s fair to say we’re no closer to knowing what the future looks like outside of it. For Wales, this has presented a multitude of challenges across a range of sectors.
Just when you think you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s another question is thrown into the mix. Right at the heart of the challenge for the NHS and social care in Wales has been to make sure we can deliver the same high standards and quality for patients and our communities as we can now. From supply of medicines, to reciprocal healthcare and supporting our highly qualified and dedicated professionals working within both sectors, we have left no stone unturned.
Take the workforce challenge for example, Brexit has given us an increase understanding of the professionals working in our health and social care services. The Brexit process has highlighted that 3 per cent of professionals working in the Welsh NHS identify themselves as EU Nationals, whilst 7 per cent of doctors and dentists are EU Nationals. While we can’t assess the impact Brexit might have on the number of EU Nationals coming to work in Wales in the long-term, we can reassure current staff from the EU that they are welcome in Wales and their contribution has a profoundly positive impact on the care provided to the population.
These kinds of issues have meant health and social care organisations in Wales has been preparing for a no-deal scenario for quite some time. In these unprecedented circumstances this stance has helped create some certainty where there has been none. It’s helped organisations understand what contingency plans they need to put in place at a local level and provided some comfort that if we plan for the worst, we can all be ready for a more positive outcome.
Critical to those plans has been to develop high-quality and regular communications to our stakeholders. In November, along with ADSS Cymru and the WLGA, we published the first version of our frequently asked questions aimed at those working within health and social care who had any concerns. More recently we’ve developed our own weekly Brexit – At a Glance newsletter full of the latest updates from Brussels to Cardiff Bay for our members and stakeholders. In the current uncertain political landscape, it is vital staff feel comfortable and have access to the facts as they are at any time.
At our Brexit NHS Networking Event (Friday 22nd March) we heard about the detailed contingency plans organisations have been putting in place to help mitigate the risks presented by a No-Deal Brexit. It was great to hear from the Director General of Health and Social Services/Chief Executive NHS Wales, Dr Andrew Goodall, about the Welsh Government’s Brexit priorities and the plans that they have put in place and to learn more about the work of Public Health Wales and the Welsh Local Government Association. The questions and the discussions following the presentations clearly highlighted continued interest in Brexit and the impact it could have on our health and social care system.
Both health and social care sectors have shown a great commitment to working closely together throughout this process and it’s true to say if we see an impact in one sector, there may be adverse effects on the other. What gives us a solid platform to manage the risks presented by Brexit is the collaboration we’ve seen to make sure Wales is prepared for whatever comes our way.
Nesta Lloyd-Jones, Interim Director of The Welsh NHS Confederation