The UK’s health and social care sector is chronically dependent on migration. The NHS and social care providers – which support vulnerable adults, children in need or at risk, and elderly people – employ 11% of the UK’s 2.1 million EU migrant workers. For a sector already suffering massive staff shortages, and reeling from six years of austerity, that’s a pretty significant figure.
The rights of many of these migrants to remain in the UK have still not been guaranteed following the EU referendum. But the big question on Brexit is whether the sector can continue to rely on migrant labour, and that very much depends on the type of divorce Britain is left with.
Mark Dayan, policy and public affairs analyst at the Nuffield Trust, an independent health charity, says there are three main options being talked about.
The first is an immigration system similar to the one currently used for non-EU migrants. It only takes skilled workers, and only allows them to settle permanently in the UK if they earn above £35,000 (€40,400). That’s unless – like nurses but unlike other key workers in health and social care – they’re on the official shortage occupation list.