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Leaving the EU: NHS and Careworkers

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

10. What steps he is taking to facilitate the recruitment of people from (a) EU and (b) non-EU countries to meet demand for NHS and careworkers after the UK leaves the EU. (910134)

The White Paper, published in December, proposes a route for skilled workers of any nationality coming to do jobs at RQF—regulated qualifications framework—level 3 and above. It will be uncapped, allowing all those meeting the requirements to come here. The right hon. Gentleman will of course recall that the Home Secretary lifted the tier 2 cap for NHS workers last July.

Freedom of movement has allowed 20,000 nurses to be recruited to the NHS. Some 5,000 have left since the referendum and there are 41,000 vacancies, with many more in other occupations, such as careworker. While the Government are consulting on the salary cap level, can the Minister guarantee that there will be sufficient flexibility to allow these relatively low-paid but scarce occupations to be fully recruited and filled?

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard earlier that, as at December 2018, we had over 5,200 more EU nationals working in the NHS in England than we did at the time of the referendum in 2016. He makes an important point about careworkers. During the engagement going on as part of the White Paper, this issue has been raised with me and the Government are certainly listening carefully. I am working closely with the Minister for social care and later this week we will be attending a roundtable on exactly this subject.

Kettering General Hospital recruits doctors and nurses from the European Union and from non-EU countries. Will it be able to continue to do both once we have left the EU?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The answer is: absolutely. The proposals we have put forward in the White Paper will ensure that there is absolutely no discrimination in respect of those seeking to come here from EU countries and from non-EU countries.

In Northern Ireland, social care is fully integrated within the Department of Health. Many of the jobs that supply vital services to older people, both in care homes and across the community, are filled by EU mainland nationals. What conversations has the Department had with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to ensure this vital flow of employment and workers can continue post Brexit?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. It is important to note that just last week I held a roundtable with representatives from the Scottish and Welsh Governments, and civil servants from Northern Ireland. It is important that we make sure we have a future immigration system that works for the whole of the UK, and we are determined to do so.