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NHS Staff from Other European Countries

Volume 612: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2016

8. How many staff working in the NHS have been recruited from other European countries in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (905660)

There are no centrally held data on the countries from which NHS staff are recruited, but self-reported nationality data suggest that 15,723 non-UK European nationals joined the NHS in England and that 7,900 left, leaving a net increase of 7,800. As the Minister responsible for the NHS workforce, may I say that every single one of them is very welcome in, and provides an invaluable contribution to, our NHS?

The problem is that the Immigration Minister’s waffle yesterday and Ministers’ warm words today are not giving confidence to these vital NHS employees. Has the Minister spoken to the Immigration Minister to request that he guarantee permanent residence to every EU national working in the NHS so that they can have the security that they—and we, their patients—need?

The Home Secretary is well aware of the enormous contribution that EU nationals make to the NHS. We all have a duty to undo the damage done during the referendum campaign and the poisonous atmosphere that exists in some parts of our communities and to thank personally—I will be doing so myself—EU nationals working in the NHS for their hard work and dedication so that they feel valued by each and every one of us.

There has been a 27% surge in trainee applications to NHS Scotland because of the conflict around the junior doctors contract in England, and now doctors and academics from the EU are not taking up posts here because of the Brexit vote. With a one-in-four rota gap in many specialties, how does the Minister plan to sustain the current service, let alone extend it?

As much as I admire and like the hon. Lady, my opposite number on the Scottish National party Benches, I think that the behaviour of some of her colleagues in Scotland during the junior doctors dispute was not in the spirit of concord by which we try to establish relations with the devolved Administrations. I do not recognise the figures she quoted about junior doctors—I am glad that we have recruited well in this country during this difficult period—but I know that she will want to thank the British Medical Association for its work in bringing the dispute to an end. I hope that in the next few days we will come to a conclusion suitable for everyone.

I thank the Minister for that and for his welcome to EU nationals here, but with the Secretary of State merely repeating what the Immigration Minister said yesterday and given what the Home Secretary has said, does he not understand the urgent situation facing EU nationals working here? With more than 100,000 of them, do we not want to give them security of residency now to avoid haemorrhaging vital staff from the NHS?

The Home Secretary said she was confident we could get a deal ensuring that they could stay, but we need a new Prime Minister able to start the negotiations caused by the decision of the British people on 23 June. I say in my capacity as a Health Minister— the House has heard from other Members, including the Secretary of State—that we have full confidence in the EU nationals working in the NHS and wish to praise their contribution, which makes the NHS a better organisation.

The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has strongly defended the role of immigrants in the NHS, saying that there has never been a time in its 68-year history when the NHS has not

“relied on committed employees from around the world”.

One of these employees was my own mother, who migrated from Jamaica to the UK in the 1950s to be a pupil nurse. Workers from the EU and other countries are the backbone not just of the NHS but of our social care system, which is facing many challenges. Does the Minister agree that we should be thanking these hard-working individuals for their service, not leaving them with questions about their status and job security?

I agree entirely with the hon. Lady that we should be thanking EU nationals working in the NHS and social care system. She herself is evidence of the enormous contribution of migrant labourers, not just in the first generation but in subsequent ones. We, as a nation and a House, should be grateful for it. This is a difficult time for many EU nationals in this country, and we should be thanking them not just for the numbers but for the special qualities they bring. In my constituency, the amazing Portuguese nurses in Ipswich hospital bring qualities and skills that some of our own nurses in our own country do not possess in our own hospitals.