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Artillery Row

Britain is draining vulnerable health systems

Short-termist immigration policies are also damaging foreign nations

In April the Government abandoned its attempts to unclog what the Care Quality Commission has described as “gridlock” in the adult social care sector. Its new policy platform is a masterclass in disappointment, and breaks a litany of pledges, including the provision of a £500m war chest to tackle staff shortages and train up British workers.

This means that the current solution, which simply bungs gaps in the workforce with cheap labour from overseas, is set to continue ad infinitum. Since 2020, 524,237 have entered the UK thanks to the sparkly new Health and Care visa route. Over half of these are dependents, who are not eligible to work, and inflict a net cost on the Exchequer.

The system is little more than an open front door with an honesty box sat on the porch. It relies on due diligence and ethical recruitment practices from for-profit companies to bring in the number and quality of people which they claim to need. Simple maths dictates that, given those on a visa can be paid as little £20,970, the boardroom of care companies are always going to claim that they need more foreign workers on their payroll.

The Home Office, never missing an opportunity to display its incompetence, simply leaves them to it and the UK’s visa system has effectively been devolved to tens of thousands of organisations on the register of licenced sponsors.

We are now reaping the consequences of this sticking-plaster politics.

The sector is now increasingly populated by foreign born workers, and this has inevitably meant that the quality of service provided to patients has taken a hit. Not only are there issues around values and norms in the provision of adult social care, but many vulnerable people are also simply unable to communicate with their new carers. New social care employees only need competence in English to a B1-level, which the British Council defines as being able to read a gym leaflet and say phrases like “I’m not so sure”. This hardly lends itself to the meaningful conversations craved by many elderly patients, nor the imparting of clear and concise medical advice.

Then there are the young people who find themselves locked out of the job market. Many school leavers would love to enter social care, but simply don’t have the chance. The government provides just a fraction of the requisite training places, and care companies, with acute shareholder needs, cannot afford the initial outlay on building up skills. Even those young Brits who do enter the sector find themselves stuck with little chance of meaningful career progression and skill development.

Nor is it just the care sector hooked on cheap labour. The UK’s entire health sector shows similar symptoms of addiction. New research by the Centre for Migration Control has found that, since 2020, almost half of all health and care visas have been awarded to citizens from the WHO’s “red list” of most vulnerable countries.

Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells us that “55 countries with some of the world’s most fragile health systems do not have enough (workers) and many are losing their health workers to international migration”.

Every year the civil service hands out hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to these countries to develop their own health and medical systems. We are told that a key reason for foreign aid is to support the training of domestic nurses and doctors, the construction of hospitals, and the provision of life-saving medicine.

Yet, in the last three years, this same government has simultaneously tapped up over 100,000 trained professionals from the likes of Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan, persuading them to down their stethoscopes and join #TeamNHS!

On the present trajectory these countries will have inadequate and understaffed health systems long into the next decade, with millions suffering as a result. Exploding populations mean they cannot afford to lose a single healthcare worker, yet every year their best and brightest are lured to the UK by our lax visa system.

Whilst the Tories put their fingers in their ears, the Reform Party have sought to take advantage of this calamitous status quo. They suggest that the government should support trained individuals, originally from red list states, to return to their home country where they can help build and develop the healthcare system.

The current approach is not simply a bete noire of disgruntled small-c conservatives either

The current approach is not simply a bete noire of disgruntled small-c conservatives either. The Royal College of Nursing — which is hardly the Salisbury Review — campaigns against the “unethical” raid on developing nations that simply “cannot continue. It’s a false economy. The government should invest in nursing staff in the UK.”

In recent memory it would have been a shock to see a trade union adopt a more sensible, pragmatic, and cost-effective position than the Conservative Party. In 2024, with sky-high immigration, public sector expenditure, and taxes, the only real surprise is that anyone still trusts the Tories to conserve anything.

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