Migration and the healthcare workforce in the UK – migration observatory report

The Migration Observatory has recently published a report which looks into the effects of immigration policy on the health and care sector in the UK.

Labour shortages in the health and care sector

The health and care sectors are facing a workforce crisis as the number of vacancies has been increasing since the pandemic. In the last quarter of 2022, the NHS was advertising over 124,000 full time jobs in England, the majority of those being advertised in London.

In July 2022, the Health Foundation projected that although the government was on track to meet the March 2024 target of recruiting an additional 50,000 full-time nurses in the UK, the number will be insufficient to meet actual demand.

Reliance on an overseas workforce

In short, the report highlights the fact that the health and care industry in the UK is facing a significant staffing shortage, resulting in 169,451 entry immigration visa applications for health and care occupations being granted in the year 2022/2023. The NHS is currently reliant on overseas health professionals to make up for workforce shortages. Being able to rely on the overseas workforce benefits the NHS in the short term, however, this also creates risks such as the unsustainability of future recruitment.

Although spikes in health and care overseas recruitment have been temporary in the past, the report suggests that even with the increase in domestic training in the last 5 years, the reliance on overseas recruitment may persist.

The health and care sector has been able to overcome some of the barriers implemented by immigration policy and have been able to maintain and increase its recruitment of overseas workers.

Future recruitment

There is criticism, however, of the NHS’s lack of strategic planning to increase the workforce from the domestic market and for failing to keep up with the demand of staff training. Although overseas recruitment of health and care staff provides a short-term solution, the report finds that it does leave the UK vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of overseas health and care workers.

It is anticipated however that high levels of overseas recruitment of health and care workers will continue for the foreseeable future.

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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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