SNP MSP for the South of Scotland and nurse Emma Harper is highlighting new figures which reveal that the number of nurses registering to work in the NHS since the Brexit referendum has fallen by 90%. The news follows Tory plans to hit employers with a £1000 a year tax for every EU workers they employ, which would see Scotland’s health and social care sector facing a £12 million bill.
Only 101 nurses and midwives from other European countries joined the register to work in the UK last month, down from 1,304 in July, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council stats – showing the very real impact that Brexit is having on our NHS before the full impact has even happened.
The worker levy plans were suggested by Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill. They have been labelled as xenophobic by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is one of the EU’s chief negotiators. Senior Tory MP Anna Soubry called the proposals a “tax on successful businesses”.
Scotland’s health and social care sectors employ 12,000 non-UK EU citizens, according to Scottish Government figures. This would see health and social care in Scotland hit by a bill of £12 million for daring to employ highly skilled and qualified workers from the EU.
“In my maiden speech at Holyrood I reflected on my own experience as a healthcare professional who was also an immigrant – in my case because I lived in California and worked in one of America’s most prestigious teaching hospitals.
“I know from my own experience of nursing in this country that the NHS is immeasurably stronger because it welcomes staff from across Europe, indeed across the world. Without their contribution it would struggle to function at all.
“The Westminster Tories continue to pander to the UKIP agenda and the far-right of their own party – making policy based on the most basic dog-whistle racist and xenophobic attitudes rather than considering the impact it would have on services such as our NHS, which is already seeing the number of applications from European nurses and midwives fall dramatically.
“In Dumfries & Galloway alone I could count a dozen different nationalities in the departments that I worked in regularly. We already have difficulty in attracting medical professionals to this region, so how on earth will doing anything to make the UK as a whole less attractive to people whose skills we actually need help us with that problem?
“The health and social care sector has already voiced its concern about the loss of free movement and the multitude of other benefits that the EU brings – and this latest proposal will simply raise even deeper concerns amongst health and care professionals, adding to concerns raised by the NMC’s figures.
“Ruth Davidson must distance herself from these xenophobic proposals and make the case to her bosses at Westminster that Scotland’s health and social care sector cannot be allowed to suffer because of a Tory hard Brexit that aims to discourage diversity in our communities and rob our health sector of skilled professionals.
“Before and after the referendum last year, Ruth Davidson championed free movement and Scotland’s place in the single market – it’s time for her to prove that she’s a politician of her word.”