As if the fact that the NHS is down by 8,000 nurses since December 2016 was not bad enough, 47% of them in a recent survey cited Brexit as the reason. Reports from Ealing show a similar exodus from the social care sector—distinctly unglamorous but important given the demographic time bomb coming down the track and the Government’s obsession with high-skilled migration. What is the Secretary of State doing to head off a crisis in that Cinderella sector?
I think the hon. Lady mischaracterises the position. The number of staff recorded as EU27 nationals working in the NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England increased by more than 5,200 between June 2016 and December 2018—there has actually been an increase in EU nationals. She also omits to mention the record investment—£20.5 billion a year extra—that this Government are making in the NHS, the NHS apprenticeships we are bringing through, and the change in tier 2 visas for talent around the world in order to attract more doctors and nurses to the NHS.
In my former job, before I came to this place, I was an emergency planner for the NHS locally in Bristol. The NHS has had to put in contingency plans and major incident plans to cope with a no-deal scenario and the future. What compensation will the Government give local NHS bodies for the time and money they have spent and wasted on incident planning that probably will not come into effect because of the Government’s incompetence?
I know from my time as a Health Minister that the hon. Lady always asks very pertinent questions in respect of health matters. She will be well aware of the statement issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which said how well prepared the NHS was. It has been our priority to ensure that we maintain the supply of medicines and to ensure that the NHS is a priority in our contingency planning. That is the responsible thing for a Government to do.