NHS Over Reliant on Migration: Wes Streeting

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The shadow health secretary said he believes it’s ‘immoral’ and ‘unfair’ to rely on foreign health and care workers amid a global shortage.

The NHS is “over reliant” on migration for staff, Wes Streeting said on Sunday.

The shadow health secretary said he believes it’s “immoral” that the UK is recruiting health care workers from so-called red list countries as they “have a severe shortage of their own health care workers.”

He also said the over reliance on migrant workers is “unfair to UK students who’ve been turned away” and he said it poses long term strategic risks for “the NHS because there’s a global shortage of health care workers now.”

Mr. Streeting made the remarks in an interview with Sky News’s “Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips” when asked whether the NHS is overburdened by immigration.

The Labour front bencher said he believes the UK does need to reduce net migration, but said the NHS has to be looked at “in the round.”

He said there’s “a whole range of reasons” why the NHS is under pressure, and blamed the Conservative government for what he characterised as “catastrophic decisions.”

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He also accused the government of “waging war on international students,” saying it’s “a way to shoot yourself in the foot.”

Following record-high net migration in 2022, Home Secretary James Cleverly introduced restrictions which he said would help reduce the number by 300,000, including banning foreign undergraduate students from bringing dependants.

Early statistics showed an 80 percent reduction in the number of foreign student-dependant visas.

However, higher education regulator the Office for Students said this week that universities in England risk closure amid inflationary pressures and a decline in applications from both domestic and international students.

On Saturday, Labour set out more details on how it plans to cut NHS waiting lists if it gets into government in the next election.

Under the plans, hospitals will run evening and weekend surgeries, with staff and resources pooled across a region.

Patients will be offered appointments at nearby hospitals, rather than necessarily at their local one, allowing them to be treated faster.

The party has pledged to spend £1.1 billion to pay staff extra for out-of-hours work to deliver the promised 40,000 weekly operations, scans, or appointments.

The opposition believes it can raise the money through clamping down on tax dodgers and tightening up the rules on non-domiciled people.

Labour highlighted the way staff at Guys and St Thomas’s in London used a high-intensity theatre (HIT) list to more efficiently perform more procedures.

The HIT list system involves increasing the number of anaesthetic, surgical, and theatre staff in order to minimise the turnaround time between cases.

By using two theatres at the same time, surgeons can be operating at the same time as their next patient is being prepared and anaesthetised.

While on a normal working day they can perform three knee surgeries for patients, they get through 12 when doing a HIT list.

The HIT lists focus on one type of procedure at a time and take place on weekends.

But Labour research indicated more than half of England’s hospitals close operating theatres on the weekends.

The promise to cut NHS waiting lists was one of the six “first steps” for a Labour government set out by Sir Keir Starmer, including delivering economic stability, setting up a publicly owned Great British Energy, launching a border security command, cracking down on antisocial behavior, and recruiting 6,500 teachers.

Asked whether Labour can deliver the pledges in its first year in government, Mr. Streeting said the party will have “a serious industrial strategy and plan for growth” and can “certainly” deliver 40,000 extra hospital appointments each week in the first year.

“Border Security Command should be able to get up and running very quickly. Great British Energy takes some time to deliver but I think we can do that,” he said.

The government’s five priorities, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out in 2023, are halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping the boats.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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