Brendan O'Hara MP: 'Draconian Immigration rules' will force our health and social care sector into an unprecedented crisis
Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Inclusive Society, Brendan O’Hara, writes following his Westminster Hall debate this week on the effect of leaving the European Union on the UK's health and social care sector.
Earlier this week in Westminster Hall, as part of a wider campaign that has attracted the support of more than 100 charities, Trades Unions and Third Sector organisations, I repeated my call for the UK government to make provision for a full and independent evaluation of the effects of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on our health and social care sector.
The debate in parliament followed on from the publication of my Private Members Bill on this subject but which, although well supported both inside and outside Parliament, was never likely to reach the floor of the House, due to lack of time.
While preparing my PMB it became crystal clear that there was a crisis looming in the UK’s Health and Social Care Sector and the government was doing little or nothing to address it and that the type of Brexit they seem determined to pursue was going to have a devastating effect both on those trying to deliver care and to those people who most need it.
Having been made aware of the crisis the sector was facing, I was determined not to just walk away when my Bill inevitably fell.
I felt I owed it, not just to those 102 organisations that supported my Bill but also to the most vulnerable in our society: those with disabilities; children and young people; older people; unpaid carers; those living with long-term health conditions; and those in our society who rely on the vital contributions made by the highly valued EU citizens who provide for the health and social care needs right across these islands. In my opinion, their voices were not being heard, nor were their views being properly considered by the government.
I owed it to those people to ensure that the crisis that will be brought on the health and social care sector post Brexit would be full examined and debated in parliament, so that 18 months from now, no one in Government could claim not to have known what the sector or the service users were saying.
We all know that there are already serious problems in funding and delivering in social care across the United Kingdom, with a seemingly relentless pressure on funding and a population which is ageing and has increasingly complex care needs. We also face major challenges in the retention and recruitment of the workforce required to meet those ever-increasing needs.
And without exception, every one of the 102 organisations that support my Bill highlighted the enormous damage that Brexit, particularly the end of freedom of movement would do to their ability to deliver in the health and social care sector. And they were unanimous in demanding that Brexit doesn’t stop them recruiting more of those highly valued and hugely important staff members from the EU in future
Given the importance placed on recruiting staff by the sector, one would have assumed that in pursuing Brexit the UK government would have made securing access to the essential pool of labour that we require now, and will increasingly need in future, one of its top priorities.
But because of the type of Brexit that the UK Government has chosen to pursue; they are about to deliberately sever that essential link between the UK’s health and social care sector and the pool of labour on which it depends.
And that will have devastating consequences because there is no professional analysis out there that does not include an expectation that the demand for care will increase in future.
The King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust have predicted that NHS England staff shortages could rise from 100,000 at present to almost a quarter of a million by 2030. That is more than one in six of service posts. And Care England have estimated that by 2035 an additional 650,000 care jobs will be required just to keep pace with the demands of our ageing population.
In addition, Skills for Care estimated that a quarter of the current health and social care workforce are aged 55 and over and will be due to retire sometime in the next 10 years, which will mean another 320,000 vacancies that need to be filled.
My debate was part of an ongoing campaign to make people realise that the Health & Social Care sector is facing an unprecedented crisis. But it is crisis that could be averted if the UK government were to drop their ideologically driven, self-imposed red lines and relax its draconian Immigration rules. That would allow the sector to continue to recruit the labour force it needs and we’ll all be better for it if they do.”
Brendan O'Hara is the SNP MP for Argyll and Bute