As Brexit looms closer and changes to freedom of movement rights become clearer, fears are beginning to form. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has reportedly estimated that hiring EU NHS staff post-Brexit could cost in the region of £500m a year.
This tripling of the cost from the current £150m stems from Brexit’s subsequent end to freedom of movement. This subsequent increase in the NHS bill is likely to force the price of three-year Tier 2 visas to rise from £4,409 to £8,609 by 2020, according to a recent article in The Guardian. This would make it more costly to permit EU staff to work within the NHS. Dr Andrew Goddard, the RCP’s president elect, was quoted as suggesting that “the NHS would have to find £105m a year to recruit staff that previously attracted no immigration costs because of freedom of movement”. Alongside these visa charges, the possible duty to cover visas for relatives and employ health staff from outside the EU would push the “total bill up to a potential £490m a year”.
In the previous year, 12,303 health professionals from overseas joined the NHS in England. To maintain this figure the government faces what Dr Andrew Goddard called “a significant new cost pressure” and that if they could not cover it and thereby pass the cost on to overseas health workers, the UK could be at a consequential risk of damaging their limited staffing levels.
However Dr Goddard applauded Ministers for loosening Tier 2 rules that originally limited the quantity of overseas doctors working in the UK by excluding doctors and nurses from the cap on skilled worker visas. This progress of encouraging overseas health workers is a step in the right direction and hopefully one that will limit Brexit’s damage to NHS staffing levels and potentially lower the cost of the overall bill.
Lastly, Ministers have recognised the essential role overseas staff play within the NHS and therefore this conscious outlook for maintaining the UK’s level of overseas health professionals is optimistic despite Brexit’s likely increase to NHS costs.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.