We need answers on EU health staff
Immigration move is welcome but there are still no answers on Brexit impact on the NHS
The UK government’s announcement of the relaxation of immigration rules to allow more non-eu doctors and nurses to live and work in the UK is to be welcomed.
The National Health Service across the UK depends on the work of immigrant medical staff to ensure the currents standards are maintained. Making it difficult for highly-trained doctors and nurses to come here is utterly self-defeating and we must hope that the government’s action sends a clear message to those considering working in our NHS that they will be warmly welcomed. Unfortunately medics from within the EU currently have no such reassurance that they will be welcomed to come the UK after Brexit, even though our NHS desperately needs them.
It is a particularly bleak irony of the result of 2016’s EU referendum that, despite the winning campaign making bold claims that £350 million could be invested in the NHS every week if the UK would just break from its European partners, concerns are now growing about how precisely the UK would cope if EU citizens are unable to come here to work in the health service.
This is an issue not just affecting medical workers and the UK government must be clear about that if they are to address it. Our former European partners would be forgiven for considering a UK proposal that, post-brexit, only those and such as those would be allowed into the country, to be quite the insult.
As Prime Minister Theresa May hurtles, seemingly unstoppably, towards a Brexit she still struggles to describe, she has at least offered some reassurances that those EU citizens already living here will be given the right to apply to stay.
But, bluntly, what happens when we run out of immigrant doctors and nurses? The health service is not suddenly going to stop needing new staff. In fact, with an ageing population living longer than before, we will need even more NHS workers.
The problem about how we properly sustain our NHS after Brexit is hardy one to be placed in the category “unforeseen”. This is a subject which was much discussed before the 2016 referendum and about which Brexiteers were continually unable to give satisfactory answers.
The Prime Minister really must provide those answers – now. Some Brexiteers may have dreamed of a UK with the drawbridge pulled up but that reality would be a disaster for the NHS.