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The Public Health (Wales) Bill

On Monday 7 November, the Welsh Government will introduce its new Public Health (Wales) Bill. The Bill set out a series of proposals in important areas of public health policy which may have important impact for young people in Wales.

Daytime picture of the Senedd

What does the Bill do?

The Bill includes proposals on the below:

Tobacco and nicotine products

  • Adds the banning of smoking in school grounds, hospital grounds and public playgrounds to already existing restrictions on smoking.
  • Creating a national register of retailers of tobacco and nicotine products.
  • Adding to the offences which can lead to a Restricted Premises Order (RPO). (An RPO bans a shop from selling tobacco or nicotine related products for up to a year).
  • Banning the handing over of tobacco or nicotine products to people under the age of 18 which has been bought online or over the phone.

Special procedures (e.g body piercing, tattooing and acupuncture)

  • Creating a compulsory licensing scheme to regulate people and businesses carrying out certain ’special procedures’. These are acupuncture, body piercing, electrolysis and tattooing.
  • Introducing a ban on the intimate piercing of people under 16 years old.

Pharmaceutical services

  • Changing the way Health Boards make decisions about pharmaceutical services by making sure these are based on assessments of pharmaceutical need in their areas.

Providing public toilets

  • Requiring local authorities to prepare local toilets strategies for the providing of, and access to, toilets for public use, based on the needs of their communities.

Please read on for more information on each individual part of the Bill.

Tobacco and nicotine products

Stubbed out cigarette and playground

The Bill will do more to limit smoking in school grounds, public playgrounds and hospitals

Smoking continues to be the largest single preventable cause of ill health and death in Wales, causing around 5,450 deaths each year.  The Bill states a number of terms regarding smoking, including:

Placing restrictions on smoking in school grounds, hospital grounds and public playgrounds

Many hospitals, schools and public playgrounds already have their own bans in place but these can be difficult to enforce.  The Bill aims to help local authorities and health boards with enforcing these voluntary bans.

Creating a register of retailers or tobacco and nicotine products.

There is no way of tracking retailers who sell tobacco or nicotine related products which makes it difficult to enforce tobacco laws.  This proposal will mean that all retailers who sell tobacco or nicotine products in Wales will have to register to be allowed to sell these products.  A ‘registration authority’ will be named to manage the register for the whole of Wales and will be in charge of getting the names of all retailers who wish to sell tobacco products and publishing them for the public.

Adding to the offences which contribute to a Restricted Premises Order (RPO).

At the moment, a magistrates’ court is able to give any retailer which repeatedly sells tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 a Restricted Premises Order (RPO).  An RPO bans all sales of tobacco and nicotine related products (including cigarette papers) by the retailer for up to a year.  The Bill wants to enhance RPOs by giving Welsh Ministers the power to include more tobacco offences that can be counted towards a retailer receiving an RPO.

Special Procedures

A number of cosmetic and therapeutic procedures, for example body piercing and tattooing, are becoming more and more popular.  However, there are a number of health risks with these types of procedures if they are carried out in an unhygienic fashion.

Improper and unhygienic practices may result in several health issues.  For example, in May 2015 a tattoo and piercing parlour in Newport was at the centre of a health scare, with hundreds of customers being invited to have precautionary tests, after five customers who had piercings at the parlour all suffered serious skin infections.

Tattoo and Piercing studio

The Bill will also enforce stricter controls on tattooing and piercing

At the moment, there is a registration scheme and some controls in place to ensure that places carrying out these procedures are safe and hygienic.  However, registration is not compulsory and enforcement of the controls is not consistent.

The Public Health (Wales) Bill includes proposals to apply more powerful controls to those who offer cosmetic and therapeutic procedures (referred to as special procedures by the Bill).  These special procedures include acupuncture, body piercing, electrolysis and tattooing; however, the Bill also provides Welsh Ministers with the power to change the list of special procedures in future.  The Bill’s aim is to ensure that where special procedures are provided in Wales, they are carried out safely and in a way which is not harmful to health or well-being.

The Bill includes proposals for:

Creating a mandatory licensing scheme for practitioners and businesses carrying out special procedures in Wales

The Bill will require that anyone who performs any of the special procedures listed is licenced and that their studio is approved.  It will be a crime for a practitioner to perform any of the procedures without a licence or to perform them from a studio which is not approved.  Welsh Ministers will set licensing criteria and conditions  to ensure that the standards are the same throughout Wales.  Local authorities will also be in charge of managing the register of licences.

Practitioners of the procedures will also be responsible for giving guidance before and after the procedure, to make sure that customers are aware of any possible health risks with the procedure and showing them how to apply any aftercare once the procedure has been carried out.

Introducing a ban on the intimate piercing of people under 16 years old

There are lots of possible issues with intimate piercing of children and young people.  Some young people may be less likely to have the experience or knowledge of how to clean and maintain a piercing and possible risks of things like infections are more likely.  Also, as young people grow throughout their teenage years, an intimate piercing may cause issues as their bodies grow.  Due to the nature of the procedures and the intimate areas involved, the intimate piercing of children and young people can be considered a child protection issue.

In Wales, there is no age restriction for body piercing and if a young person is capable of understanding the procedure that is about to be carried out on them then they are able to give consent.  In order to protect children and young people from possible harm that might arise from an intimate piercing, the Bill will ban the intimate piercing of anyone under the age of 16.  It will also make it a crime to make arrangements to perform an intimate piercing on anyone under the age of 16, even if the piercing does not go ahead.

Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing this part of the Bill, including prosecuting people who perform intimate piercings on those under the age of 16 and investigating any complaints.

Pharmaceutical Services

Part of the Bill focuses on strengthening the role of pharmacies in promoting and protecting public health.  The Bill aims to do this by changing the way that Health Boards make decisions about pharmacies to ensure that the services they offer best fit the community which they serve.

Picture of a blister-pack for pills

Do you know all the services available at your local pharmacy?

At the moment, Local Health Boards only take notice of the amount of pharmacies which can dispense prescriptions in an area when considering whether to allow someone to provide pharmaceutical services.  The Bill looks at the range of additional services which a pharmacy can provide for a community.

Under the Bill, Health Boards will have to consider the full range of services that pharmacies can offer away from just giving out prescriptions when considering an application to provide pharmaceutical services such as medication reviews, flu jabs and sexual health queries.  They will also have to carry out “pharmaceutical needs assessments” in their areas to see how well current pharmacies in their areas serve their communities.

  • Providing Public Toilets

Providing enough public toilet facilities has been identified as a very important health issue.  The Public Health (Wales) Bill aims to improve the planning of public toilet facilities to ensure that these facilities better meet the needs of their community.

Toilet sign

The Bill will force local authorities to look into toilet facilities in their areas

Under the Bill, each local authority in Wales will have to prepare and publish a local toilets strategy for its area.  This must include an investigation of the community’s need for public toilet facilities (including those for disabled people and baby changing) and a plan for how the local authority is going to meet this need.

Plans must be made while taking the opinions of local people into account and will be reviewed regularly.

The Bill does not force local authorities to provide and maintain public toilets but it does force them to ‘take a strategic view across their area on how these facilities can be provided and accessed by their local population’.

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