Health expert reflects on the importance of migrants to our health and social care sectors – and on Labour’s plans
Contrary to the myth – and Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel’s claim that immigration would “surge” to 840,000 if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister – Britain is not a particularly high-migration country.
The UK has fewer foreign-born residents than either France or Germany and the UK’s workforce has fewer than 10% foreign-born – including from the EU) – compared to 15% in the US.
Net immigration is falling. Patel’s scare stories about immigration are totally false and without any foundation.
How right Jeremy Corbyn is when he tweets, “When politicians resort to blaming immigrants, you know they’ve run out of ideas”.
Corbyn has always supported “fair rules” and “reasonable management” of immigration. He is quite clear, “that we need to end the exploitation that’s going on, we need to maintain a market access within Europe and we need to ensure there are good relations between all communities”.
I couldn’t agree more: immigration must be set against continued access to markets for British business and the needs of organisations like the NHS and the UK’s social care sector.
The “grotesque exploitation” of EU migrants by some UK companies had caused “awful tensions” in communities because of the under-cutting of wages – and this has to stop. This political stunts of the Tories under Boris Johnson could prevent much-needed specialist workers from settling in Britain even though they are vital for our economy and public services.
The NHS depends on black and minority ethnic staff to provide high quality, reliable and safe care to patients – and has done since its inception in 1948.
These staff enrich the NHS with their skills, enthusiasm and diverse perspectives. The NHS is the largest employer of BAME staff in the UK: more than 200,000 health service staff (around a third of doctors and a fifth of nurses and midwives) are from BAME backgrounds and a third of NHS doctors trained overseas.
Even now, amid increasingly difficult working conditions, the Department of Health and Social Care is recruiting all grades and specialties of doctors and nurses from outside the EU.
Many EU citizens, Asian and black health professionals have been the workhorses of the NHS, concentrated in the lowest paid, least glamorous specialties, often in the least popular parts of the country. Some have faced racism and slow promotion in their working life.
The problems facing the NHS will certainly be exacerbated by continued Tory government. It’s worth remembering that social care employs almost as many people as the NHS – 1.6 million across the UK, of which approximately 90,000 are EU nationals.
Whatever the UK’s future status, the Labour party will make sure that any arrangements protect both the interests of British nationals and the needs of our health and social care sectors, making it attractive for needed migrants and their families to come to the UK and provide the services and expertise we need.
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour are absolutely right to advocate that, What is required is neither fortress Britain, nor open-door Britain. Instead, what we need is to ensure that there is fairness, equality and diversity while celebrating the Brtitishness of our society.
This will harness public support for a controlled but fair migration policy that benefits Britain and its people.
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