Proposed 'NHS visa' may help address NHS vacancies but won't ease staff shortages in social care Health Foundation response to the Conservative party’s plan to attract more NHS staff from abroad

8 November 2019

Responding to the Conservative party’s plan to attract more NHS staff from abroad, Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said: 

‘The proposed changes are a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of international recruitment in the NHS. Reducing the barriers to recruitment of much-needed doctors and nurses from abroad will go some way to addressing the huge number of NHS vacancies in these roles. There are currently more than 40,000 nurse vacancies in NHS trusts, and our projections with The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust suggest this could worsen significantly, with nurse shortages doubling by 2023/24.

‘The UK is struggling to recruit enough nurses domestically and will continue to have a significant reliance on international recruitment for the near future. The number of EU nurses joining the NHS has fallen following the Brexit vote and changes to English language testing requirement. Although recruitment from outside the EU has increased, a non-restrictive migration policy will be crucial in ensuring these numbers remain high enough.

‘But this policy does nothing to address the major staff shortages in the social care sector which is also highly reliant on workers from abroad, many of whom earn well below the proposed £30,000 salary visa threshold. The government’s proposals for immigration after Brexit do not create a specific entry route for social care which employs a quarter of a million people from outside the UK – almost 40% of social care staff in London are from overseas. Without these vital workers it’s hard to see how quality and access to social care can be maintained, let alone improved. A solution to the issue of workers from abroad is therefore essential but the incoming government must also fix the underlying problems with recruitment and retention of workers as a result of poor pay and conditions in the sector.’

Media contact

Simon Perry
Simon.Perry@health.org.uk
020 7257 2093

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