Defend Our NHS Migrant Workforce

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
18 December 2015

Conference notes there is no doubt that we are living in challenging times. Austerity has seen a vicious scapegoating campaign with the likes of Ukip, Britain First and the Daily Mail using this agenda to promote the idea that black people, Muslims, immigrants, refugees and other minorities are responsible for the deteriorating economic situation.

Conference also notes that the Tories have also fueled the anti-immigration rhetoric with their anti-immigration vans and Theresa May’s speech at Tory Party Conference saying Britain does not need large numbers of migrants and warned they are putting British workers out of a job, forcing down wages and making it impossible to create a ‘cohesive society’.

Conference understands there is no doubt of the positive impact migration has had on the NHS since its inception. Overseas recruitment of doctors, dentists, nurses and other NHS staff has meant the NHS has survived and that it better reflects the society that it serves.

Conference condemns the Tory Government’s handling of the Nurse shortage in the NHS. The facts are clear to see, there is a rising demand for health care, a shortage of home grown nurses with new rules limiting the use of agency staff. This means the NHS is reliant on overseas recruitment in order to provide safe patient care. As nursing is not on the shortage of occupations list, NHS Hospital Chief Execs, NHS England Chief Exec, health unions as well as others have had to lobby the Government in order to be able to guarantee that safe patient care.

Conference welcomes the temporary reprieve meaning NHS hospitals are now welcoming hundreds of overseas nurses once again, but is concerned that their future and the future of those overseas nurses already established in the UK is at risk. Tory immigration rules stipulate that those not on the shortage of occupations list from outside the European Economic Area who are earning less than £35,000 after six years in the UK will be deported. Again, this is to be reviewed. By 2020 almost 30,000 nurses could face deportation, which could cost around £180 million in recruitment due to workforce pressures and increased international recruitment.

Conference believes this is further evidence of the Tory’s ideological attack on our public services by introducing policies motivated by political dogma.

Conference believes we should be celebrating our migrant workforce within the NHS not demonising them or unsettling them and their families. Migration contributes positively to UK economic growth and our public services benefit from this in the collection of taxes.

NHS Chief Execs, NHS England, Doctors, nurses and trade unions are warning the government to rethink its policy. They have been warned that hospitals will be unable to recruit and fill vacancies at a time when the NHS is facing a crisis in terms of staffing leading to the CQC warning “Insufficient staffing number and skills mix were among key factors putting safety at risk across all sectors”.

UNISON has a proud history of supporting, promoting and celebrating our diverse workforce. We know that our BAME colleagues are usually found in the less glamorous and lowest paid specialities. We know that many have faced prejudice, racism, slow career progression and are underrepresented within the management structures, been overrepresented in disciplinaries, grievances, capability, bullying and harassment cases.

The Tory approach to our dedicated and hardworking Migrant workforce is insulting and UNISON is best placed to ensure we work with them to challenge the Tory right wing rhetoric.

Conference agrees with Dave Prentis who stated “current staffing levels are too low in too many areas. Sending back thousands of qualified dedicated nurses overseas would have left our health service in a dire situation. While this is good news, it is essential to the service that nurses remain on the shortage list for the foreseeable future.”

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)Celebrate our NHS Migrant workforce within the NHS, highlighting the positive contribution they make to keeping Our NHS safe

2)Continue to prioritise recruitment and organising within overseas nurses

3)Continue to campaign and lobby for nursing to remain on the shortage of occupation list until we have safe staffing levels within the NHS and proper workforce planning systems in place

4)Work with the Labour Link to lobby MP’s to support our campaign

5)Ensure this work is highlighted in our work to defend the NHS in building local and national alliances

6)Engage with branches, self-organised groups, regions and the wider membership and continue to produce “myth-busters” to counter the allegations made by far right groups and the right wing media.