I would like to pay tribute to the tireless work that our doctors and nurses perform, not least of all the role of those doctors and nurses who have come from overseas to provide us all with our world-leading National Health Service.
I completely understand concerns regarding the impact of our withdrawal from the European Union on foreign nationals working in the NHS. That is why I welcome the Government’s repeated commitment that all EU nationals working in the UK will be able to remain in the country with the same rights as they enjoy today. This will ensure that EU nationals can continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector.
As the UK leaves the European Union it is essential that going forward we have a strategy for immigration that suits the UK’s needs and ensures we continue to have an open, dynamic economy and a world-class health service staffed by dedicated professionals. For that reason, the Government is looking to implement a skills-based policy that will apply to both EU and non-EU migrants equally.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has suggested a salary threshold for skilled workers of £30,000. This is to ensure that migrants are making a positive contribution to the UK economy, paying into the public finances and not placing downward pressure on earnings.
Designing a comprehensive new immigration system will of course take time and consideration. That is why the Government has taken on board the MAC’s proposals, while continuing to consult employers, devolved authorities and others to determine whether the threshold is at the right level. As the White Paper released before Christmas makes clear, the Government believes there should be some flexibility where skills are in shortage.
The Government also maintains a Shortage Occupation List, which identifies occupations that are in high demand and urgently need positions filled. The Home Secretary has asked the MAC to review the Shortage Occupation List and I will follow progress on this matter with interest. I share concerns about making sure we have a migration policy that is right for the UK, including the NHS. For that reason, I want to assure constituents that the Government is open to proposals and is looking extensively at how to ensure this policy delivers.