Following his discharge from St Thomas’ Hospital on 12 April 2020, Boris Johnson released a heart-felt video message addressing the nation and expressing his gratitude to the NHS for saving his life.
Current staffing shortages in the NHS stand at around 100,000, and could increase to 250,000 or more by 2030, according to the Health Foundation and NHS data released in November 2019. The NHS is also known for heavy reliance on international recruitment. According to ONS figures, out of the 1 million plus people working in healthcare roles in NHS hospitals in England in March 2019, 6% were EU nationals and 8% non-EU nationals – and these figures did not include the rest of the UK or NHS infrastructure support staff.
Despite some effort to introduce a new visa for the NHS, current UK immigration policy as well as the proposed points-based skills system remain restrictive with respect to the medical and support staff the NHS urgently needs in order to maintain treatment standards and to carry out essential medical duties. As EU free movement is set to come to an end, the staffing shortage for the NHS can only become more acute.
Strikingly, during the PM’s video address he thanked two nurses in particular, Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal, who looked after him overnight, when “things could have gone either way”. We hope that in light of the gravity of the pandemic and the importance of the NHS’ role in keeping the nation safe, the PM’s message could signal positive changes for UK immigration policy, not only for NHS workers but potentially also to other essential workers who may not qualify as skilled workers under the proposed immigration rules to be implemented in 2021
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