Key legislation in Wales to improve health and well-being

Two important legislative actions were recently taken in Wales with the potential to contribute significantly to public health, well-being and reducing inequalities: the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act became a law in April 2015, and the Public Health (Wales) Bill was introduced for discussion in June.

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

The National Assembly for Wales passed the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, aiming to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, through a common commitment from the public and private sectors, to offer the next generations a good quality of life in a sustainable way.

This Act uses synergic and preventive actions in a long-term perspective to build a more resilient, cohesive, equal and healthy community. It establishes the importance of:

  • incorporating well-being goals for the consideration of the Auditor General for Wales;
  • collecting national indicators focused on the population well-being, and producing a Future Trends Report before any Assembly election;
  • creating a Future Generations Commissioner to act as a technical advisor of the public bodies and as an advocate for the interests of future generations;
  • transparency at the micro and macro level, through the public statement of the objectives of each public body, the annual reporting on their progress and on the response to the Future Generations Commissioner recommendations; and
  • organizing public services boards, which integrate the different local authorities to assess and improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being in a sustainable way, and the creation of the Local Well-being Plan.

The Public Health (Wales) Bill

Considering the challenges faced by the Welsh society, such as the high prevalence of chronic disease caused not only by ageing but also by lifestyle choices and socioeconomic inequalities, and following up on the priorities set out in "Our healthy future" and "Fairer health outcomes for all" government publications, the Public Health Bill was presented to the National Assembly for Wales. 

The Bill focuses on preventative approaches through legislative/regulatory actions, since these are some of the most effective and equitable measures available to respond to health challenges. 

Therefore, this Bill presents a series of practical actions that collectively contribute to improve public health including reducing tobacco consumption, monitoring the quality of businesses/practitioners carrying out special cosmetic procedures and adjusting pharmaceutical and public toilet provision in line with population needs. Specific measures include:

  • restriction of tobacco use and nicotine inhaling devices (e.g. e-cigarettes) in enclosed public places;
  • prohibition of the handing over of tobacco/nicotine products to people under 18 years;
  • creation of a national register of retailers of tobacco/nicotine products;
  • creation of a mandatory licensing scheme for businesses/practitioners carrying out acupuncture, electrolysis, body piercing and tattooing;
  • a minimum age for intimate piercing (16 years old);
  • proposed changes to the way pharmaceutical services are planned; and
  • adequate consideration of provision and access to public toilet facilities.