• The government’s immigration white paper predicts nurses could be most disrupted by immigration system changes
  • The Home Office will remove cap on skilled tier 2 visa workers
  • It will engage with employers to decide on the salary threshold for “intermediate skilled” workers

New immigration laws proposed by the government could cut the number of EU healthcare professionals coming to work in the UK by more than 25 per cent, according to the government’s analysis.

The Home Office’s immigration white paper, which was published today, has identified nurses and midwives, health and care services managers and other “health professionals” as among 49 medium and high skilled occupations “which could potentially see a reduction in EEA long-term worker inflows over 25 per cent”.

The white paper has predicted that nurses and midwives could be among the roles most disrupted by the immigration policy because the NHS is “heavily reliant” on long-term EEA migrant labour and may find “adjustment to labour market changes difficult”.

The paper says the future system represents a “more restrictive” policy for EEA workers, but will loosen restrictions for non-EEA workers, offering “greater opportunities” to employers looking to source skilled labour.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has accepted the recommendation made by the Migration Advisory Committee earlier this year to remove the cap on numbers in the existing tier 2 visa route and make the sponsorship system less bureaucratic for employers. The paper described this as a “very significant change”, which will ensure there are no limits on the volume of skilled migrants, including doctors.

The MAC recommended a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for workers with “intermediate skills”. However, the Home Office has said before confirming a future threshold it will engage “extensively” with businesses and employers.

It has also asked the MAC to review the shortage occupation list, which it will report on in spring 2019.

The government has said in some circumstances where there is a skills shortage, there should be “some flexibility” to allow migration at lower salary levels.

The paper acknowledged that social care could find it “difficult to adapt” to the new policy. As a transitional measure it has proposed a “time limited” route for temporary short term workers.

This will allow people to come to the UK for one year with a “cooling-off period” of a further year to prevent people working in the UK permanently.

Responding to the white paper, the Cavendish Coalition group of health and care organisations said it was “extremely concerned” whether the visa proposals in the white paper will allow for the number of care staff needed to sustain services.

“The new immigration system must adjust skills and salary levels to ensure that health and social care provision can be properly staffed by the skilled care staff it needs,” it said.

“While it is anticipated there may be some provisions for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, this ignores physios, paramedics and other allied health professionals and there will be severe implications for the social care workforce in particular,” the coalition said.

“The government needs to fund wage increases or make special provision for health and care,” they added. “If the government does not address this social care crisis the knock-on effects to the population and the wider economy will be enormous.”