The Government’s latest measures to curb net migration have ‘not been thought through’ and will ‘stir unrest’ among ‘valued international colleagues’, the BMA has warned.
New home secretary James Cleverly yesterday announced a new plan that the Government said would ‘deliver the biggest ever cut in net migration and curb abuse of the immigration system’.
But warnings are flooding in that it could have unintended consequences for the NHS and social care system, in part due to the rhetoric used which may make overseas workers feel ‘unwelcome’.
The measures include:
- preventing overseas health and care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK
- an increase to the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50% from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700, from next Spring – excluding those coming on Health and Care visas
- ending the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List, which will retain a general threshold discount
- a review, by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), of the new list against the increased salary thresholds in order to reduce the number of occupations on the list
- a MAC review of the the graduate visa route to ‘ensure it works in the best interests of the UK and to ensure steps are being taken to prevent abuse’
- increasing the annual Immigration Health Surcharge from £624 to £1,035
The Government’s announcement stressed: ‘Those coming on the Health and Care visa route will be exempted from the increase to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas, so we can continue to bring the healthcare workers that our care sector and NHS need.’
BMA workforce lead Dr Latifa Patel said: ‘Here we have another instance of the Government making announcements that clearly have not been thought through. This migration proposal, as it stands, will stir unrest among our valued international colleagues, without whom the health and social system would collapse.’
She noted that the move comes as the NHS ‘is facing the greatest workforce crisis in its history’ and argued that the announcement ‘and the rhetoric underpinning it ‘will undermine efforts to retain international staff, making things even worse.’
She added: ‘It’ll also make it difficult to meet the commitments made in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – that the Government has endorsed – which heavily relies on improving social care capacity.
‘The Government must stop making announcements to create headlines, but rather weigh the consequences of not fully supporting social care and understand the potential impact on our NHS.’
A UK-wide survey of around 2,000 doctors, carried out by the MDDUS, recently revealed that more than half of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) experience everyday instances of racism at work.
MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny said: ‘It is my hope that the strong language on curbing immigration issued by the Home Office does not unintentionally worsen what we know can already be a challenging work environment for international medical graduates (IMGs).
‘Because this is about patient safety as well as the experience of overseas doctors in the UK. How can we assume that patients are safe unless they are being treated by doctors who are settled, comfortable and confident in their places of work?
‘It is pure self-interest for policy makers to make sure that this is the case.’
Mr Kenny added: ‘We will be watching to understand further how, or if, the exemption mentioned in the footnotes of James Cleverly’s statement will include salaries for doctors in training.
‘However, even if this is confirmed to be the case, what remains concerning is the potential impact of this type of government rhetoric on the supply of overseas doctors the NHS currently relies on.’