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Government’s EU immigration crackdown ‘disappointing’ for NHS, says BMA

The BMA has branded the Government’s new immigration policy, which will end free movement for EU workers, as ‘disappointing’.

The Home Office said its plans for a new points-based system, which would come into force from 1 January next year, will give the UK ‘full control over who comes to this country’.

Under the revamped policy, EU citizens wishing to migrate to the UK must achieve a total of 70 points. These are based on factors including an ability to speak English; a job or job offer at an appropriate skill level or via an approved sponsor; and a minimum salary of £23,040.

The Government’s statement added that ’employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021′.

Although the statement said ‘initiatives’ were ‘being brought forward’ for NHS workers ‘which will provide businesses with additional flexibility in the shorter term’, the announcement was met with criticism across the health and social care sectors. 

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The NHS is currently facing intense workforce shortages, so it’s particularly disappointing to see the Government stop freedom of movement – something which has been instrumental in encouraging and enabling EU citizens to work in our health service.

‘Dropping the salary threshold, as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, is certainly a positive step, but doctors work with a wide range of staff, including porters, cleaners, and care workers, and the revised threshold will still leave many valuable people unable to come to the UK.’

Elsewhere, concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the care sector, with the Nuffield Trust calling it ‘on the verge of bankruptcy’.

Its chief economist John Appleby said: ‘Migration has been a crucial safety valve for crisis-stricken social care services, with workers from overseas filling vital roles helping people with basic tasks like washing, dressing and personal hygiene.

‘Stopping migration for social care risks pushing a sector on which many vulnerable people depend over the edge.’

Staffing shortages routinely affect primary care but the Government has pledged to bolster the workforce by 6,000 more GPs.

This month, it also confirmed plans for nurses, pharmacists and paramedics to retrain as doctors via fast-tracked courses, enabled by the UK’s EU exit.