A no deal Brexit would be a “catastrophe” for vulnerable people needing care and lead to more care home closures and the collapse of domiciliary care companies in North Wales, an industry leader has warned.
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said that a number of care homes that are already struggling and on the brink of closure would be tipped over the edge by the New Year.
He said: “It would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Mr Kreft made the comments in response to the leaked UK Government documents of Operation Yellowhammer which he described as “scary”, particularly as they did not outline their vision of the worst-case scenario
The document states: “An increase in inflation following EU exit would significantly impact adult social care providers due to increasing staff and supply costs, and may lead to provider failure, with smaller providers impacted within two-three months and large providers four-six months after exit.”
Mr Kreft said: “We’re heading towards a Brexit perfect storm, and the people who are going to suffer here are the most vulnerable people in Wales.
“It’s clear from the leaked documents of Operation Yellowhammer that the UK Government is aware of how dangerous it could be to social care and yet they persist with it. It’s really hard to fathom.
“A number of care homes are on the brink already and have very tight margins because fees are so low. A no deal Brexit will push some over the edge.
“What we’re really seeing now is the potential for a major shakeout of the industry.
“We’re going to see the cost of care going up because the cost of supplies would increase sharply in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“It is a very serious state of affairs because in recent years care homes have been closing already across Wales due to chronic underfunding. We’ve lost thousands of beds in recent years and the projection is to lose many more.
“At the same time, the population of over 85s is increasing by a 100 per cent in the next 20 years so it’s obvious there are going to be a lot of issues.
According to Mr Kreft, Brexit has already had a negative impact on the care sector in Wales.
He said: “We’ve had three years of uncertainty, three years of a lack of leadership and now we’ve seen may people return to the eastern European countries and we are no longer able to recruit nurses and other care staff from Europe.
“On top of that, we’ve now got the issue of the new immigration policy with a cap of £36,000 a year.
“We’ve got a real shortage of domiciliary care workers. We’re already seeing now hospital stays being longer and people not being able to be cared for in their own homes where previously they were and this is to do with the shortage of people.
“People are not attracted to coming here anymore, and a lot of people in Wales are not maybe interested in the job or it’s not for them. Then you can see there is going to be a problem.
Mr Kreft also added that the damage done to the care sector in Wales by a no deal Brexit would have a knock-on effect on the NHS.
He said: “If the social care sector struggles it’s going to place more pressure on the NHS. The social care sector in Wales is the foundation of the NHS. It’s a cornerstone that if the NHS is to survive a winter crisis it would have to have a fully functioning social care sector.
“We’re seeing very high occupancy levels in the district general hospitals across Wales. We are seeing high occupancy levels in care homes because there are fewer of them and there are fewer beds than there used to be, and there are a lot more people that need care.
“The way that the sector has developed in the last five or 10 years is that we are now looking after a group of people who are very much more dependent than they were previously.
“Very often the sorts of people with disabilities and illnesses would have normally been in hospitals, have now moved out into the social care sector. If that social care sector is not there with the numbers to support then clearly it’s going to put even more pressure on hospitals which are already creaking under the strain.”