UK migration policy and the Welsh NHS and social care workforce

The UK Government has proposed a new, points-based immigration system to come into effect once the European Union (EU) Transition Period ends. The main effect of the new system will be to create equal status for EU and non-EU immigrants, and to end the free movement of labour to and from the European Union. While provisions have been introduced to exempt certain NHS and social care staff, this change in immigration policy will have an impact on the health and social care workforce in Wales, which has staff from across the UK, European Union and the rest of the world.

As part of the EU Transition Support Fund Grant received from the Welsh Government, the Welsh NHS Confederation commissioned the Wales Centre for Public Policy to analyse the likely effects on the health and social care workforce, which staff groups might be most affected, and the implications for the long-term workforce strategy for health and social care, including future retention and recruitment. This report uses existing Welsh NHS workforce data from Health Boards, Trusts and other national bodies and published documents and interviews with stakeholders to analyse the likely impacts. While the implications for social care are discussed, social care workforce data is not readily available, in part due to the number of care providers across Wales. Primary care staff data was also currently not available but there are plans to address this.

The report finds that the likely impacts of the new rules on the Welsh NHS will be small. The challenge will be for the system to provide support for new migrant workers to navigate the bureaucratic challenges involved. However, there are likely to be greater vulnerabilities within the social care workforce, and this will have consequences for the integrated health and social care system if not addressed, including increased demand on primary, community and acute NHS services.

You can also listen to our podcast on post-Brexit migration and Wales here. In it, Dr Craig Johnson speaks to Professor Jonathan Portes, Dr Sarah Kyambi, and Llyr ap Gareth about the likely impacts of post-Brexit migration policies, and they offer insight into the ways in which the Welsh Government could seek to respond to the challenges and maximise the opportunities that the new migration rules will present.