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Health and Social Care Recruitment: EU Exit

Volume 738: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2023

5. What recent assessment he has made of the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on trends in the level of recruitment in the health and social care sector. (906548)

6. What recent assessment he has made of the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on trends in the level of recruitment in the health and social care sector. (906549)

It is fine; thank you, Mr Speaker.

Since Brexit, we have more than 13,000 more doctors and 48,000 more nurses working in the NHS in England, and 40,000 more full-time equivalent staff in adult social care. Our points-based immigration system means that we can recruit the talent we need from all over the world for our health and social care system, including from the European Union.

If everything is as rosy as the Minister says, why did a spokesperson for the Nuffield Trust say last year that

“greater costs, more paperwork and uncertainty over visas because of Brexit have been among the biggest barriers to recruiting and keeping EU and EFTA doctors”?

Cannot she admit that Brexit is exacerbating difficulties with recruiting appropriate staff for the NHS across the whole of the UK? Scotland did not vote for Brexit. Why are we having to pay the price?

I suggest it is really time that the hon. Gentleman stops blaming Brexit. He should in fact look to his SNP colleagues in Holyrood and ensure that they make Scotland’s NHS a better place to work. If he had listened to my answer, he would have heard me say that since Brexit we have recruited more than 13,000 more doctors to the NHS in England. In fact, we are doing so well that we recently recruited a doctor from the SNP Benches. [Laughter.]

Very droll. I congratulate the Minister on that one.

If not the Nuffield Trust, perhaps BMA Scotland’s Chair Dr Iain Kennedy will be good enough. He recently said that the recruitment and retention of senior medical staff across the NHS in Scotland remains a huge challenge, with the health immigration surcharge cost increases announced by this Government potentially further deterring foreign workers from joining the NHS. Given the recently announced NHS long-term workforce plan, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that Scotland has the immigration we need for future recruitment and retention for our health service?

We have the health and social care visa, which supports our health and social care services to recruit doctors, nurses and other professionals, as well as social care staff, helping to boost those numbers. The hon. Gentleman referred to the important NHS workforce long-term plan, which will increase the home-grown staff in our health service. That will give us 60,000 more doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 70,000 more allied health professionals in our NHS over the next 15 years.

It has been reported that the Home Secretary plans to tighten the rules for those arriving on a health and care worker visa, to block most from bringing dependents with them—yet another in a long list of her vendettas against children coming to these isles. What recent assessments has the Secretary of State made of how that will impact international recruitment and capacity in our already struggling health and care services?

I work closely with colleagues in the Home Office to ensure that the health and care visa achieves the objectives set out. We are seeing real success in social care—the recent Skills for Care workforce report showed that we have 20,000 more care workers in England. We are doing well on recruitment to social care.