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09.01.19

A ‘more nuanced approach’ to immigration needed for health service, NHS Employers say

NHS Employers has argued that the current immigration system must change to a “more nuanced approach,” warning that the government’s immigration white paper does not provide a long-term solution to the NHS workforce crisis.

In its 2019-20 submission to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB), NHS Employers identified workforce shortages as the biggest challenge the NHS faces and said that the NHS must develop a sustainable workforce with long-term planning and talent management as a priority.

The body claimed that the UK’s skills-based immigration system, and the government’s white paper “does not provide a long-term solution to health and social care needs across nursing” and other professions.

It noted that the government “continues to confuse high pay with high skill and high value,” and said they will “continue to argue for a more nuanced approach.”

NHS Employers said that Brexit has caused uncertainty about immigration policy from March 2019, resulting in fewer employers planning to recruit from the European Economic Area.

More than two years on from the EU referendum, employers believe that Brexit has had a negative impact on their workforce— and the organisation suggested for special arrangements to be made, like those offered to agricultural workers to ensure care workers can be recruited from outside the UK.

NHS Employers stated that a post-Brexit immigration system must secure clear and reasonable routes to immigration, and be flexible to allow health and social care employers to recruit from outside the UK to fill workforce shortages and support the best quality of care.

The chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, added that in “an incredibly difficult period financially for health and social care,” planning must take place on a larger scale to better prepare and develop the workforce system but the NHS can only succeed if given sufficient resources.

NHS Employers says its evidence to the Pay Review Body usually sets out its expectations on increases to basic pay; but because of the recently agreed Agenda for Change pay deal announced last year it announced it would concentrate on implementing progress and highlighting areas of concern.

NHS England stated in November that workforce pressures presented the highest internal risk for NHS trusts this winter, a view echoed by three think tanks who called the staffing crisis “the health service’s biggest liability.”

They revealed that there is a shortage of 100,000 staff across NHS trusts which could pass 350,000 by 2030, resulting from poor planning and fragmentation at a national level, poor planning, cuts in training funding and restrictive immigration policies.

Image credit - sturti

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