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May’s immigration plans are ‘huge concern’ for NHS

NHS Employers warn government’s immigration plans threaten health and social care

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

NHS Employers are hugely concerned by the effect on health and social care of the government’s plans on immigration post-Brexit, they have warned. The prime minister said yesterday that she wants “an immigration system for the future that everyone can have confidence in”, but the heads of both NHS Employers and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the plans threaten the ability of healthcare providers, as well as other businesses, to recruit the skilled people they need.

In her speech on Brexit and immigration at the CBI annual conference, Theresa May said she wanted to deliver control over the UK’s borders from the Brexit negotiations, “by bringing an end to free movement, once and for all”. She said that although the UK values immigrants’ contribution to its economy and society over many years – and this will continue after the UK has left the European Union – British people would welcome the UK having full control over its borders.

She said: “It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi. Instead of a system based on where a person is from, we will have one that is built around the talents and skills a person has to offer. … And we want an immigration system for the future that everyone can have confidence in.”

But NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer responded: “These remarks are of huge concern. It’s vital to get the new immigration policy right if we are to both keep health and social care services open.”

He went on: “We know we need to increase the number of UK trained health professionals, especially nurses. The recommendations on salary thresholds and having no need for a so-called ‘lower skilled’, lower wage, route into the UK would cut off the supply of nurses from overseas and there would be no mechanism for employing people into care worker roles. It would be completely unacceptable to allow vital social care services to close under the strain of not having the people required to provide the necessary care.”

The CBI also warned of the impact on health care of Theresa May’s plans. It said although government might be listening to businesses about their concerns on immigration, “they still aren’t hearing”. CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Free movement of people is ending and a new immigration system represents a seismic shift – one that firms across the country need time to adapt to.

“A false choice between high and low skilled workers would deny businesses, from house builders to healthcare providers, the vital skills they need to succeed. The best way to build public confidence is through a migration system based on contribution, not numbers.”

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