Immigration after Brexit: Government White Paper sparks NHS staffing concerns

The Home Secretary announced on the 19th December 2018 a new immigration system for the UK after Brexit.

The new system will prioritise working experience and talent over nationality.

The paper outlines that the system will:

  • remove the annual cap on the number of work visas issued
  • widen the skills threshold to include people with qualifications equivalent of A levels
  • ends the requirements for labour market tests by employers wanting to sponsor a worker

Parts of the policy have been welcomed, such as the proposal to remove the cap on the number of work visas issued. For example Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has stated:

“We are pleased to hear that, following repeated calls by RCGP and the BMA, the Government plans to scrap the Tier 2 visa cap for skilled workers in any migration system post-Brexit, including doctors wishing to move here to meet the significant gaps in our NHS workforce. The removal of the cap for doctors and nurses from non-EU countries earlier this year was vital and it is encouraging to see this will continue to be part of the Government’s plans post-Brexit. At a time when workload in general practice is escalating and our GP workforce is plummeting, despite a record number of GPs in training, we need to encourage as many highly-skilled, fully-qualified GPs to come to and then remain working in the UK as we possibly can.”

However, she does also highlight her concern over the consequences of a salary cap, a minimum salary threshold for migrants to be able to secure five-year visas which is expected to be set at £30,000 which is higher than the salary earned by nurses, junior doctors and other NHS workers such as physiotherapists and radiographers. She states:

“However, while this is positive news for appropriately-trained doctors and other ‘skilled workers’ from overseas, we are concerned that there could be a £30,000 salary cap, which would prevent other vital healthcare staff and support workers from being employed as practice nurses and other members of our wider practice teams.”

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer also shared his concerns, stating:

“The proposals in the Immigration White Paper do not provide a long-term solution to the needs of the NHS across nursing and other professions. They continue to confuse high pay with high skill and high value: the staff from the UK and around the world working in the NHS and social care do not command high pay but are hugely skilled and provide vital services to our families.”

Commenting on the new proposals, Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) was generally positive, however warned that the policy will need adjustment once implemented, stating:

“To be at the forefront of discovering the next generation of medicines we need to attract the best and brightest from overseas, as well as foster home-grown talent. We welcome the Government’s ambition for a system which is open to highly-skilled professionals and life sciences students worldwide. Our members tell us that having a straightforward system to recruit global talent is a priority. As science evolves rapidly, so do the skills our companies need. The UK’s future approach to immigration must respond quickly to any skills gaps that arise, and we will continue to work closely with Government as they finalise these proposals.”

The government news story and policy paper is available here.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard’s response is available here.

The ABPI response is available here.

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Published on 28. December 2018 in News, News UK