Statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services: The Impact of a 'No Deal' Brexit on our Health and Care Services (22/01/19)


On 23 June 2016 the people of Wales and, indeed, the UK voted by a majority to leave the European Union—the largest number of people ever voting across the UK since records began. Now, I have always believed, as I do today, that politicians, irrespective of party, have a fundamental duty to ensure that the will of our people is delivered. The legal default position, of course, is a 'no deal'.

Over the past two and a half years, I have been saddened here to see this Welsh Government prevaricate from its own devolved responsibilities, avoiding scrutiny in favour of causing mayhem by scaremongering, and now seeking to derail Brexit through issuing confused calls for both a general election and, indeed, a second referendum or—call it what you like—a people's vote. Instead, you should have been focused on preparing the devolved areas that you have responsibility for here, not least the health sector, from the outset. You are right in your statement: there is a nervousness in the Welsh healthcare sector, but this is not being helped by you yourself. For example, it is an astonishing fact that the Welsh NHS's share of the Welsh Government's £50 million EU transition fund fails to reflect your hyperbolic rhetoric. As you might recall, Minister, in October 2018, you announced that only—yes only—£210,000 of the £50 million fund will be used to prepare the health service in Wales for Brexit. Really? When considering that health and social care spans seven health boards, 22 local authorities, it is actually quite shocking that you have essentially allocated just around £7,200 per public body.

Sadly, lack of preparedness is a common theme when considering the Welsh health and social care sector, as has been picked up and acknowledged by one of your own Labour AMs, David Rees. Whilst you mentioned in your statement that you've commissioned Ipsos MORI to access the composition of the social care and childcare workforce in Wales, it is a striking fact that this is only being done now. Thankfully, our UK Government is more organised and has acknowledged issues such as medicine and advised manufacturers to stockpile six weeks' worth of stock in the case of a 'no deal' scenario. It is also nice to know from the First Minister that the latest raft of 140 employees—interns—into the Welsh Government department to prepare for Brexit have, in fact, been funded by the UK Government. More so, the UK Government has no wish to prevent people from inside or outside the EU coming to work for our public services. The UK Government has—and don't deny it, they have guaranteed that there will be no change to the status of NHS staff if no deal is agreed

You have a greater issue on your plate, as it seems that Wales continues to struggle to retain staff, regardless of their nationality. Indeed, the concerns of Oxford university's Nick Fahy include that there is a danger staff might relocate to England. Personally, I think this is unsurprising, as I already know that it's happening in north Wales, and that is due to your own incompetence of running the health service—a board that has been in special measures for three years.

Therefore, my questions to you are, Minister: will you clarify whether you will be assisting any companies financially with stockpiling costs, and, if so, whether that will be coming from the EU transition fund or that of the health department; (2) what work are you undertaking to allay fears of 'no deal' on healthcare staff, and are you really confident of retaining NHS staff Wales regardless of nationality whilst also resisting the over-reliance on agency staff; and (3), finally, will you explain whether you are considering securing more money to help prepare the health and social services sector? Across the UK, this is the only devolved Government where we've seen massive and savage cuts to our health service. So, I think any—[Interruption.]—any criticism now should be directed at this Welsh Government, and let the UK Government get on with Brexit.