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Offer European NHS workers ‘automatic’ British citizenship

Think-tank warns that drastic action is needed to protect NHS from exodus of workers

Mark Gould

Thursday, 25 August 2016

All EU citizens working in the NHS should be offered automatic British citizenship to recognise the importance of their contribution to the health service and to protect the NHS in the wake of the Brexit vote, an influential think tank has recommended.

With nearly 57,000 people from the EU working in the NHS, almost 5% of its workforce, and one in 10 of the UK's registered doctors an EU national, a report* by the Institute for Public Policy Research, says that as Britain embarks upon negotiations to leave the European Union, there is no clarity on the future status these workers.

The report's author Chris Murray, said that without this EU contribution "the NHS would collapse". “It is critical to public health that these workers do not seek jobs elsewhere. All EU nationals who work for the NHS, or as locums in the NHS system, should be eligible to apply for British citizenship. This offer should be organised by the regional NHS and mental health trusts, who would be responsible for writing to all NHS staff who are EU nationals to inform them of their eligibility.”

The report argues that people who came to Britain "legally and legitimately, who have built their lives here and contributed to British prosperity and culture, have no way of knowing whether they will be able to stay and on what terms".

It says that the UK government "must recognise that European children who have been brought up in Britain, even if they do not have British nationality, will maintain an enduring connection to the country for the rest of their lives".

"Furthermore, the contribution that EU workers have made to the National Health Service especially must be recognised and safeguarded. The country’s social cohesion depends upon a comprehensive system that integrates the migrants who have made their lives here into the national population."

The report calls on the government to:

  • Grant indefinite leave to remain to all EU citizens resident in Britain.
  • Offer automatic British citizenship to all European children who have been educated in Britain.
  • Waive the £1,200 fee for British citizenship for all EU citizens who have been living here for more than five years.
  • Offer automatic British citizenship to all Europeans working in the National Health Service, to recognise the importance of their contribution and safeguard public health.

The report also recommends the creation of a fast-track route to citizenship for those with "globally competitive skills" such as medicine, science or nursing. "By paying a higher fee, those with world-class skills in industries that power the British economy should be able to access citizenship, the ability to travel that it brings, and the security to invest and put down roots. This would send a much-needed message that Britain is open and competing hard in the global race for skills despite both our toughening immigration system and Brexit."

Migrants who satisfy all the other requirements of citizenship but are in jobs earning under £20,000 per year should be able to take out a citizenship loan, allowing them to pay the cost of their citizenship back over time. This loan would be interest-free and government-backed, in the same vein as student loans and start-up loans. "We estimate that within a number of years any revenue loss would be offset by income from the fast-track route", the report says.

* Murray C. Becoming one of us. Reforming the UK’s citizenship system for a competitive, post-Brexit world. Institute for Public Policy Research, August 2016

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