The Commons Health Select Committee has suggested that the healthcare system must take a streamlined approach for recruiting overseas workers into the NHS.
This will allow health and social care to retain what the committee describes as the “brightest and best” staff following Brexit.
In its assessment of how the UK departure from the European Union will affect health services, the committee suggested that a new system intended to recruit swiftly from overseas would need to be implemented for many years.
“The government’s plan…should ensure health and social care providers can recruit the brightest and best from all parts of the globe,” the committee commented.
Adult social care is a particularly acute cause for concern, owing to its degree of reliance on EU migrants.
They select committee’s new report is entitled “Brexit and health and social care”, and examines the extent to which NHS is reliant on overseas workers.
And the committee concluded that the removal of bursaries for nurses will also potentially have a massive impact on the profession.
This had previously been widely asserted by nurses’ unions and other interested parties, but this official acknowledgement will further exacerbate criticism of the policy.
Indeed, the Health Select Committee concluded that it is impossible to predict the true reliance on nurses from overseas at the present juncture.
Several problems could slow down the process of recruitment from abroad in the future, and the Health Select Committee called on these to be addressed.
Health Education England gave evidence during the process of compiling the report, and indicated that plans have already been put in place to ensure that the demand for nurses could be filled by domestic trainees.
But Professor Ian Cumming indicated his belief that replacing the number of overseas nurses with homegrown talent would prove to be problematical.
Leaked Department of Health documents indeed indicate that the NHS could face a shortage of around 40,000 nurses in the next 10 years.
Approximately 7% of all nurses working within the NHS system hail from European Union countries, and the “existing immigration system is characterised by bureaucratic and financial barriers to recruitment from outside the EU,” according to NHS Digital.
“The existing immigration system is characterised by bureaucratic and financial barriers to recruitment from outside the EU which do not currently exist for those from inside the EU. If such a system was extended… after Brexit it would create serious problems for the health and care sector,” the report asserted.
“The government’s plan for our post-Brexit future should both ensure that health and social care providers can retain and recruit the brightest and best from all parts of the globe and that the value of the contribution of lower paid health and social care workers is recognised,” the committee commented.
Responding to the report, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, expressed her concerns about the future of the nursing profession and the approach of the government.
“Theresa May has been told by this cross-party group that failing to give EU nursing staff and others the right to stay will harm the NHS. The report leaves the government with no place left to turn. Patient safety and the supply of nurses must not be adversely affected by Brexit.”