Consequential etc provision

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:15 pm, 26th February 2019

My hon. Friend makes a salient point. As we go through the Bill in Committee, there seems to be a recurring theme of the danger of gaps. One of the issues is that if we have gaps, there is a danger that people fall through them. In this particular area, the people who might fall through them are those in need of specialist healthcare, support and treatment. None of us would want that to happen, which is why planning and preparedness are so important. Such a significant change further underlines the necessity of planning and preparedness.

Across the wider workforce, primary and acute medical and social care shortages are already impacting on people’s access to cancer care in hospitals and communities. We know that demand is growing at the same time. Macmillan Cancer Support has said that cancer is a key proxy through which to understand the importance of supporting the health and social care workforces. Improvements in diagnosis and treatment mean that more people than ever are surviving or living longer with cancer, which is a very good thing. Across the UK there are now 2.5 million people living with cancer, and the figure is expected to rise to 4 million by 2030.

To support the growing number of people living with and beyond cancer, there must be an immigration system in place to underpin and support a workforce that is capable of delivering this, alongside an appropriate skills and development system. The immigration system must also complement the very welcome long-term ambitions of this Government, and the Scottish and Welsh Governments, to improve cancer care across the United Kingdom. The plans set out in the immigration White Paper do not include a detailed analysis of the impact of ending freedom of movement on the cancer workforce or those working within the wider health and social care sector. Plans to use salaries as a barometer by which to identify skilled workers are concerning given the large number of professionals who would not meet the threshold that may be established at £30,000. I recognise that the Minister has consistently said that the threshold is being consulted on and is under review, which is a welcome message for her to continue to repeat. I hope that that message is properly delivered on as we move forward.

Although the majority of specialist cancer nurses would be treated as skilled workers, there is a question mark over how the social care sector will be able to recruit from the EU once freedom of movement ends. That point very much echoes what my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston said earlier.

There are also outstanding questions about how the UK will be able to recruit both clinical and infrastructure support staff, where EU nationals make up around 4% of the workforce. A recent Global Future report highlighted that the White Paper projects that fewer than 20,000 EU immigrants in total will arrive in the UK each year between 2021 and 2025, with fewer than 6,000 who will be expected to work in all parts of the public sector combined. The report concludes that the projected numbers are not compatible with ongoing rates of the 5,000 per year needed to work in the NHS alone. Ending freedom of movement can help create an opportunity to upskill and recruit from the domestic labour market, but cuts to training budgets for cancer professionals may threaten the recruitment of students and professionals into cancer care, which leads me to ask whether the Government have the right policies in place to sufficiently tap into the domestic labour market.

I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. It is an opportunity to raise the issues. I hope that the Minister will hear the very loud concerns of these very significant organisations and take the opportunity of holding a roundtable meeting or something similar, to ensure that their concerns are properly engaged with as part of the process of trying to ensure proper preparation for the impact on this very important sector, in terms of not just the workforce and these organisations, but the people who rely on the very best care.