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Brexit uncertainty affects NHS plans

EU referendum
European Community

A lack of clarity over Brexit negotiations and the constant uncertainty surrounding a potential deal between the UK and the EU is harming NHS Wales’ ability to plan effectively, BMA Cymru Wales has warned.

Giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, the BMA’s Stephen Monaghan said the risk to the NHS was severe if there was no deal.

Dr Monaghan, chair of the BMA Welsh council legislation subcommittee, told Assembly Members: ‘We believe overall that Brexit is bad for the health of the people, and we've got some very specific policy positions on the single market and assurance of supplies and supply chains to the NHS.’

The uncertainty surrounding the status of EU nationals, and their families, working in the NHS was also another worry, he said.

He continued: ‘It's pretty clear that the severity side of no deal is very severe for the NHS and for health. But the difficulty is trying to gauge the likelihood of no deal – and that shifts day by day.

‘Anyone watching the environment would see that it seemed to be getting more likely that there'd be no deal; suddenly, there's some fairly positive mood music that there'll be a deal.

'So, for the service, knowing that there's planning for something of very high severity were there to be no deal at the same time, it kind of lurches from complacency to panic and it's not ideal for planning.

‘There may well be a deal before too long, I hope, in the next month or so, but, even then, that won't be the end of the story because of the meaningful vote back in the UK Parliament and then because of all of the deliberations on the UK withdrawal agreement bill.

‘So, this is quite a difficult environment for the NHS to plan within and yet the severity of not having a plan that works and really falling out with no deal is so severe.’

Meanwhile, Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething has written to immigration minister Caroline Nokes to raise concerns with the status of family members of NHS workers from the EU.

An upcoming pilot of a Home Office EU settlement scheme, being carried out in the NHS, does not include workers’ family members.

Mr Gething said: ‘Unless the UK Government changes its mind and makes the decent decision we will not be promoting the scheme in Wales although it will be open to health and social care staff in Wales to apply for settled status as part of the pilot if they choose to do so.’

Mr Gething has also announced funding of £210,000 to help prepare the NHS in Wales for Brexit.

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