One of the most parroted reasons for the UK to remain in the EU is the fact that so many migrants work for the NHS and that our health service would collapse without them. This argument is utterly misguided. NHS staff shortages are being manufactured as a result of our EU membership, which hampers the ability of the NHS to recruit properly.
EU Immigration Leads the UK Government to Cut Immigration From the Rest of the World
We often hear how EU immigration is roughly equal to immigration from the rest of the world. What very few people talk about is that most of the migrants from the rest of the world are students. According to the Migration Observatory, of the 275,000 migrants who came to the UK from non-EU countries in 2012, 59% were students. Only 17% came to work. This is largely because, in an effort to control immigration, the government has imposed strict caps on the number of non-EU workers who can come to the UK. This cap is harming British industry, which is prevented from recruiting the best and brightest from around the world, but it is particularly damaging to the NHS.
The EU Does not Supply the NHS with Most of its Foreign Workers
One of the essential skills any medical practitioner needs is the ability to speak the patient's language. Doctors from the Commonwealth typically have English as a second-language, but this is not always the case across the EU. This can be seen in the figures. The latest numbers from the General Medical Council show that of 273,761 doctors registered in the UK, 63.3% trained and qualified in the UK, 25.7% trained and qualified in non-EU countries, and only 11% trained and qualified in EU countries.
The Cap on Non-EU Workers Prevents the NHS From Recruiting Nurses
This statement is taken directly from the government's Migration Advisory Committee Review of Nursing which was published in March 2016:
"Nursing was the occupation most severely affected by the monthly limit being reached, with over 2,700 nursing applications refused as a result."
The monthly limit is the cap on non-EU workers imposed by the government in an attempt to be seen to be doing something about immigration. The government currently has an annual cap of 20,700 places under the Tier 2 immigration route, and that cap is divided into monthly limits. According to the government's own committee, last year this country turned away more than 2,700 non-EU nurses who wanted to settle in the UK, and had job offers, because the monthly non-EU immigration limit had been reached.
When we have recruited nurses from outside the UK, they have tended to come from non-EU countries. According to the Migration Advisory Committee, 86% of nurses currently working in the UK trained here, 10% trained in non-EU countries and only 4% trained in the EU. We are turning away thousands of nurses who have job offers, who are properly qualified, and who speak English. We are rejecting people from countries that have traditionally helped meet the NHS's needs, in order to comply with a non-EU immigration cap.
The Migration Advisory Committee says:
"Because of the immigration cap for all skilled workers, health sector employers have experienced difficulty in accessing the migrant nurses they say they need."
The UK's Current Immigration Policy is a Betrayal
The government is turning away nurses because they are not from the EU. Many of them are from countries that the UK once colonised. Not only is their rejection a betrayal of the UK's historic relationship with the Commonwealth, it is a betrayal of the British people. We don't care about the colour of a person's skin, or where they were born, we just want our NHS to be properly resourced. Nursing is on the Shortage Occupation List, which is a government list of occupations where there is a recognised national shortage. The fact that our misguided immigration policy leads us to turn away nurses we need is nothing short of a scandal.
These are highly skilled individuals who want to make a clear contribution to Britain in a profession where there is a recognised shortage, and they are being rejected in favour of EU citizens who are entitled to come to the UK regardless of their skills, profession, or the contribution they make.
Leaving the EU Will Improve the NHS's Ability to Recruit
Relieved from the pressure of approximately 300,000 EU immigrants per year, the government can adopt sensible immigration policies based on our national need. Immigration is essential to the UK's future, but instead of a free-for-all for EU citizens, and a miserly cap for the rest of the world, the UK can recruit the best and brightest, and people with the right mix of skills from all over the world. And hopefully we will never again be in a position where we are turning down thousands of able nurses when our NHS desperately needs them.
And next time you hear David Cameron talk about how essential migrants are to the NHS and try to use that as an excuse to keep us in the EU, just remember that, according to his own advisory committee, his government turned away 2,700 non-EU nurses last year.
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