I have been contacted by a number of constituents as part of a 38 Degrees campaign regarding the impact of Brexit and immigration rules on NHS staffing.
I have to say, first of all, that I very much share many people’s concerns over this. Back in July 2016 after the EU referendum, I raised concerns in Parliament that the Government had so far refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK following the decision to leave the European Union, attacking the despicable suggestion that EU migrants should be used as a bargaining pawn in negotiations with the EU.
I am particularly concerned of the rights of the thousands of EU nationals working in the NHS and social care system. It is important that we recognise and pay tribute to the dedicated staff from across the EU, and indeed the rest of the world, who play an essential role in our NHS and social care services. Our entire health and care system would be brought to the point of collapse if hardworking EU citizens were forced to return to their native countries – and it would be a travesty if they were made to feel so unwelcome in the UK that they decided to leave of their own accord.
One point that I have made repeatedly is that there are very few people from other European countries that work in care (including a former lodger of ours who works with people with learning disability and with mental health problems). I am extremely concerned about where we will find the workforce in the future to do this incredibly important work.
In terms of protecting the NHS for future generations, I have led a cross-party group of MPs calling on the Government to embrace a cross-party process and establish an NHS and Care Convention to engage with the public and with staff with a view to agreeing a new long-term settlement for both the NHS and the care system. We need to confront the inefficient use of resources and the need for more funds. It should not be beyond the wit of man or woman to achieve a modern efficient and effective health care system but this is a significant failure of public policy at present.
We have investigated concerns about immigration post Brexit on the Science and Technology Select Committee, which I chair. You can see a copy of the report published here. It is vital that we can continue to attract great people to come and work in our country, not only in health and care, but in sectors such as science and engineering.
I also wrote to the Home Secretary to put forward the concerns raised with me by constituents and I include below a copy of the response I received.
I will continue to fight for the rights of EU health workers and argue the case for a cross-party process which I think is essential for us to break the deadlock.