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The Immigration Skills Charge; The Elephant in the Room of the NHS Staffing Crisis

May 11, 2017


We need to talk about the immigration skills charge. This change in legislation - introduced on 6th April 2017 - levies a £1,000 penalty per year of visa on employers who bring workers into the UK on a Tier 2 visa. 


In the run up to the General Election there was been much talk about injecting money into the NHS, or increasing care service provision, but there has been little momentum, particularly from the larger Westminster based parties, on tackling the crisis of NHS staffing levels. This week we wrote, highlighting concerns of a reduction in GP number of up to 4% in Scotland if resident EU nationals rights to remain are not protected. Now, the situation of those EU doctors leaving is made bleaker by the prospect of significant financial penalities to the NHS to fill those jobs from doctors outside of the EEA. The same issues stands for nurses, AHPs and many other disciplines within ourr health service. The BMA, examining the issue in England, costed the policy at £1.6m per year for Health Education England. Whilst numbers are smaller in Scotland, the distribution of non-EU national foreign healthcare workers particularly in rural areas highlights the issues we would have in recruiting to these posts in Scotland. 


The NHS has a broad range of workers of different nationalities working in our service, each contributing a valuable role in the workings of our healthcare service. Trusts should not be put in a position of financial discouragement of employing from outside the U.K., particularly when we recognising the length of time and scale of work force planning that is required to rectify workforce shortages. The table below gives an indication of the numbers of workers from outside in U.K. working in the health service. 


If the Scottish Parliament had levers over its own immigration policy, currently retained at Westminster, we would be able to more careful plan and diligently appoint workers to meet needs without money being drawn from other areas where it is much needed! 



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