As reported by the BBC, the immigration cap is currently crippling the UK’s Health and Social Care services.
HCL has recently written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Amber Rudd asking them to look into the problem:
Dear Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,
Re: Health workers and Shortage occupation list
I am writing to you in my role as the Chief Executive of HCL Workforce Solutions (“HCL”) to urgently draw your attention to the immigration cap currently crippling the UK’s Health and Social Care services.
As you may be aware, HCL is an approved provider of Health and Social Care staffing, providing full total recruitment solutions that include permanent and temporary solutions through to full outsourcing. We were recently acquired by Castlerock Recruitment Group (“CRG”) making us one of the largest suppliers of Health and Social Care staff within the UK.
Given the UK’s current deficit in qualified doctors, social workers and domestic nurses, recruiting from overseas is increasingly critical in filling UK vacancies. The latest statistics quote that between January 2017 and March 2017, the NHS alone had over 86,000 vacant posts. The current vacancy rates and lack of qualified professionals in the UK increases the reliance on agency workers that is frequently linked to higher costs and poorer patient outcomes.
Another factor that is having an undeniable impact on filling UK vacancies is Brexit. Whilst the full ramifications of Brexit remain admittedly unclear, it is well documented that many skilled EAA workers are now deterred from coming to the UK. Brexit now limits even further the dwindling pool of EEA qualified and skilled individuals available to the Health and Care sector, a vital group of workers that represent 5.6% of the 12.5% non-British workers within the NHS.
For many years Health and Social Care workers who have trained outside of the EAA have been coveted by the UK for their diverse skillset, and this has never been truer than with today’s shortages. As recruitment experts, we see daily the strain our healthcare systems are under, clearly exacerbated by the lack of UK professionals. At the same time, we see the applications from qualified and skilled professionals, coming from across the Commonwealth, the Middle East and elsewhere that could significantly ease this pressure if only the Visa & Immigration process would allow it.
Whilst the skills shortage occupation list has enabled the UK to recruit some of the most critically needed Health and Social Care workers from outside of the EEA, the inclusion of this list within the annual allocation of 20,700 immigrants is simply stifling the UK’s ability to fill workforce gaps and maintain high-quality patient care.
The introduction of the OET (Occupational English Test) into both the NMC and GMC registration process in November last year has created a much-needed surge in applications. However, this buoyancy in applications is destined to be thwarted by the current allocation of certificates of sponsorship.
The current set-up of the immigration caps means that middle-grade doctors, junior doctors and adult social workers (all currently not included in the shortage occupation list) are competing each month with every other industry looking to bring non-EEA workers into the UK. This means that for every engineer, IT worker and ballet dance (jobs which feature in the shortage list) recruited from outside the EEA we lose the chance to recruit another desperately needed healthcare professional.
Since hitting the cap in November 2017, we have been unable to deploy four doctors and six adult social workers into the UK after repeatedly having their certificates of sponsorship rejected, whilst a further twenty professionals have their applications pending.
We know we are far from alone in this situation; we are being told daily by our NHS clients that they are also being rejected, with one particular client receiving seven rejections in a single day.
These rejections are despite the monthly application being front-loaded for 2018, making all parties extremely concerned on how this will not only affect 2018 workforce plans but also the individuals who are currently planning for a new life and career here in the UK. The emotional distress for those going through the application process cannot be discounted and further contributes to a growing international perception that the UK simply does not want overseas workers.
It seems almost needless to point out that the lack of availability of sponsorship is fast becoming a significant waste of money for the NHS; the service is consistently forced to use expensive agency workers to cover positions that could surely be filled by the skilled workers mentioned above.
Despite the current difficulties facing our UK services, HCL genuinely believes a solution is possible. We would ask that the government looks to expand the definition of doctors and social workers currently covered within the shortage occupation list. A much broader definition is required that includes mid-tier clinicians as well as adult social workers.
In addition, we would ask that that the sponsorship of qualified and skilled Health and Social Care workers be allocated outside of the annual immigration quota of 20,700 to end the conflict between employing healthcare workers and those from any other field of work.
We firmly consider HCL a supporter of our NHS and Local Authority partners and we remain fiercely passionate about supporting and improving these services. services. I would welcome further discussion or a meeting to expand on the information contained in this letter. To discuss further please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Chief Executive of HCL Workforce solutions