Hospital Dr News

White Paper on Immigration: dangerous for the NHS and social care

Doctors’ leaders have warned that the Government’s new White Paper on Immigration could be potentially devastating to patient care and the wider health and social care sector.

The much-delayed White Paper – a document setting out proposed new laws before they are formalised in a government bill – includes:

  • A consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas
  • Scrapping the current cap on the number of skilled workers such as doctors or engineers from the EU and elsewhere
  • Visitors from the EU will not need visas
  • Plans to phase in the new system from 2021
  • Tens of thousands of low-skilled migrants could come to the UK to work for up to a year until 2025.
  • under proposed new post-Brexit immigration rules.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the new system would be based on UK needs rather than where migrants were from and show the UK “open for business”.

Unveiling what he said would be the biggest shake-up of immigration policy for 40 years, Mr Javid said that while there was no “specific target” for reducing numbers coming into the UK, net migration would come down to “sustainable levels”.

Mr Javid said the proposals would enable the UK to exercise control over its borders and “deliver on the clear instruction” of the British people when they voted to leave the EU.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Freedom of movement has allowed thousands of staff from Europe – from doctors, nurses and care workers to hospital porters and cleaners – to come to the UK and provide valuable service in our NHS, and today’s plans to restrict immigration could be potentially devastating to patient care and the wider health and social care sector.

“Any arbitrary salary threshold will affect vast swathes of the NHS workforce coming from overseas, and while the earlier floated figure of £30,000 a year may be reconsidered, anything close to this would have a huge knock-on effect for the health service. Doctors depend on a range of staff to support them to carry out their work and a salary threshold would prevent overseas workers from filling these vital roles.

“The BMA lobbied hard to have doctors removed from the Tier-2 visa cap earlier this year, and we’re glad that the Government has finally abolished the limit altogether. However, it’s incredibly disappointing that this victory for common sense has not been reflected elsewhere in this paper.

“Furthermore, these proposals will be phased in from 2021, and with a no-deal Brexit looking more likely by the day, they do nothing to outline what an immigration system for EU doctors will look like if Britain crashes out with no agreement in 100 days’ time.”

The ending of free movement from Europe is a key part of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, although any replacement system is set to be part of post-Brexit trade talks.

Cavendish Coalition co-convenors Danny Mortimer, Nadra Ahmed and Sara Gorton said:

“The Cavendish Coalition represents a UK-wide coalition across social care and health, bringing together employers and unions from the complete spectrum of state, charitable and private providers.

“We are extremely concerned whether the visa proposals in the Immigration White Paper will encourage the numbers of care staff social care needs to sustain services. The new immigration system must adjust skills and salary levels to ensure that health and social care provision can be properly staffed by the skilled care staff it needs.

“While it is anticipated there may be some provisions for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, this ignores physios, paramedics and other allied health professionals and there will be severe implications for the social care workforce in particular as well as outstanding concerns on doctor and nurse recruitment.

“The sector relies on lower paid – but hugely skilled – colleagues whose availability would be effectively cut off by a proposed salary threshold of £30,000 and with no special allowance like that recommended for seasonal agricultural workers. Either the Government needs to fund wage increases or make special provision for health and care.”

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