Fears are growing that the NHS cannot cope with the immigration cap after recruiters warned the temporary limit on foreign doctors was already “compromising patient care” the Daily Telegraph reports.
Doctors union, the British Medical Association, has warned the cap on non-EU migrant workers – due to come into effect permanently from this April – will “undoubtedly” create skills shortages which would likely lead to operations being cancelled and increased waiting times.
The news comes as the NHS faces radical change in the way it runs and offers services to members of the public.
The Government on Wednesday unveiled legislation aimed at handing GPs about 80pc of the NHS budget from 2013. Unions warned the proposals would undermine the health service while an influential group of MPs said on Monday the overhaul would lead to poor decisions on care. Some 10,000 people have signed an online statement voicing concerns.
A number of health care recruiters said the health service was already under immense pressure after the Government introduced the temporary immigration cap in June last year.
John Faraguna, managing director of Hays’ health care division, said: “In our dealings with employers it is already very apparent that there is a shortage of workers with the necessary skills. Doctors, nurses and specialists, such as radiologists and anaesthetists, are all needed to work in the NHS. The increasing pressure on frontline services due to an ageing population only exacerbates the problem.” He added: “We are faced with greater pressure on services and we need to attract and retain the best talent to support our economy – not cut a valuable source of skills. Skilled health care workers move globally and the UK’s loss will be other countries’ gain.”
SOS Healthcare, a recruitment firm providing locum staffing cover at short notice, warned A&E departments were already being hit by the temporary immigration cap. A spokesman said: “A lot of hospitals are understaffed, and finding an experienced doctor is like gold dust, hospitals are crying out for them. It’s compromising on patient care.”
David Cameron has said that immigration can be cut by tens of thousands a year without damaging the economy and has moved to calm business fears by allowing multinational companies to transfer overseas staff to UK offices.
However, Abi Smith, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s International Committee, said the NHS also needed flexibility over which staff it could recruit from overseas to suit demand. She said: “The immigration system needs to be flexible enough to allow experienced doctors from outside of Europe to be appointed, if suitable staff cannot be found from within the resident workforce. If the health service is not able to fill vacancies it may result in cuts to services and increased waiting times.” Source: Daily Telegrapgh.
When a normally right wing anti-immigration newspaper like the Telegrapgh starts warning about the side effects of an immigration cap, the government may sit up and start listening.
The NHS warning follows a number of simlar comments from leading industry figures, Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson and a coalition government minister.
In a statement to the FT last year, Business Secretary Vince Cable said that the immigration rules and immigration cap are causing “a lot of damage to business industry’.
London Mayor Boris Johnson fired a New Year broadside against his own party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron – with a warning that Government policy on immigration risks harming the economic recovery.
But employers are already suffering the effects of the cap before it has even been implemented.
Thousands of employers, for instance in the care sector which looks after the most vulnerable people in our society, are still being blocked from recruiting skilled migrants from outside the UK under the interim cap, even when the job is listed on the official shortage occupations list, such as Senior Care Workers.
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