Brexit uncertainty raises NHS concerns in Wales

NHS warehouse in Newport
Image caption A warehouse in Newport is being used to stockpile supplies by NHS Wales

Disruption from Brexit could have an adverse effect on people's health and welfare, especially for vulnerable groups, a report has said.

Public Health Wales is concerned about the "likely disruption" to medical supplies and the impact of any price hikes on things like food.

It adds to concerns from January over possible problems recruiting workers.

On Thursday, Number 10 said the prime minster and his Irish counterpart could see a "pathway to a possible deal".

Talks with Boris Johnson were "very positive", according to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Johnson has said he wants to agree a deal, but will take the UK out of the EU "do or die" on 31 October.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption NHS Wales is already stockpiling supplies as it prepares for Brexit

A negative impact of Brexit on food supply, food standards and environmental regulation - including air quality and bathing water - has increased from possible to probable, according to the report.

However, it does suggest there would be dividends, such as lower house prices and a weak pound boosting exports.

NHS Wales is already stockpiling supplies for care homes and hospitals in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Public Health Wales document examines the potential effects of Brexit on the short, medium and long-term health and well-being of people living in Wales.

Regarding health workers, it said: "Ongoing uncertainty around immigration rules and rights of migrants living and working in the UK is likely to affect recruitment and retention in Wales."

In Wales, it is estimated at least 1,462 EU nationals are directly employed by the NHS - 1.6% of the workforce.

Another 6.4% of staff in registered social care settings in Wales are EU nationals - estimated at about 2,900 workers, mostly in residential care.

Analysis by Cemlyn Davies, BBC Wales political correspondent

This report paints a worrying picture of what Brexit could mean for Wales.

It says the potential negative impacts significantly outweigh the positives and the likelihood of certain problems happening has increased since PHW's last report on the matter.

But that's because the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has increased since then too, with Boris Johnson insisting the UK will leave the EU at the end of October "do or die".

Many of the fears expressed in the report around the availability of food and medicines may be dismissed by Brexit-supporters as scare-mongering or short-term inconveniences.

But it should be noted this report also points to possible - if limited - Brexit dividends.

And despite Mr Johnson's pledge to leave on the 31st, he's required by a law to seek a Brexit extension to avert no-deal if an agreement hasn't been approved by next weekend.

On access to medication, it said there was "evidence to support the likely disruption to supply chains of medicines and medical devices, in the case of a no-deal exit, which has become increasingly likely".

The report also said there was also some evidence people's mental health was being affected by Brexit, especially those in farming communities which can be reliant on subsidies.

"The scale of uncertainty facing farming communities, some of which is directly linked to Brexit, has been identified as increasing anxiety and impacting on the mental well-being of this population group," said the report.

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