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EU migrants contribute more to the NHS than they consume

Expert report gives recommendation on EEA migration

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Migrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contribute more to the health workforce than they consume in healthcare.

This is the conclusion, published this week, in the Migration Advisory Committee’s EEA migration in the UK: Final report.

The report, commissioned in July 2017 by the home secretary, was designed to look at the current and likely future patterns of EEA migration and its impact. The report sets out its recommendations for the UK’s post-Brexit work immigration system, and recommends a less restrictive regime for higher-skilled workers than for lower-skilled workers.

In its section considering the impact of European Union (EU) migrants on the healthcare, the report states: “There is no doubt that EEA migrants contribute more to the health workforce than they consume in healthcare. This can be explained by their age profiles, they tend to be younger than the make-up of the resident population. They also tend to consider themselves to be healthier than the UK-born population. Furthermore, there is no evidence that increased migration has led to a decrease in the quality of health care services in the UK.”

The proportion of healthcare workers from EU13+ and NMS (New Member States) countries has steadily grown from 1997 to 2017. Recent employment figures from NHS Digital for March 2018 show that NMS workers make up 1.6% of the NHS workforce, EU13+ nationals comprise 2.6% of the workforce and 6.6% of the workforce are nationals from non-EEA countries.

The report notes that health expenditure is heavily concentrated on the elderly “so the relative youth of EEA migrants means that their share of health expenditures will be much less than their total share in the economy”.

In addition, the report finds that 89% of expenditure is spent on those born in the UK and Ireland. Both EU13+ and NMS migrants represent a 2% share of health expenditure.

“The share of expenditure estimated to be on EEA migrants is much less than their share of the healthcare workforce so that they contribute more to the supply of healthcare than the demand.”

Commenting, Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This report puts paid to the damaging misbelief that migrant workers are a drain on health and care services. The independent experts found that the reliance of the NHS and social care on overseas professionals far outweighs the cost of their care.

“However, when we know that the training of healthcare staff in EU countries is very similar to our own, the call for there to be no preferential treatment for EU staff to work in the UK after Brexit represents a missed opportunity.

“Only last week, vacant jobs in the NHS in England hit a record high. With no long-term strategy to alleviate shortages, the future UK immigration system must be equipped to recruit and keep the brightest and best professionals – patient safety depends on it.”

She added: “The Committee’s call to remove the limit on highly skilled workers from other countries is welcome. The UK has long depended on nursing professionals from around the world and any future cap on their numbers would leave health and social care services unable to recruit the nurses they need.

“Not only do they keep services going, their skills and experience add to the richness of our global profession. They are also valuable members of our communities, and we want them to stay in the UK after Brexit.

“Finally, we welcome the Committee’s recognition that the problems of providing social care in this country go beyond simple immigration measures, and require much broader intervention from the government.”

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