Since the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union, I have received a huge volume of emails from constituents who have contacted me to express a whole range of opinions and concerns about our exit. This week the Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill had its second reading in Parliament and so I thought it would be helpful to address some of the concerns constituents have with regards to the impact of the bill on NHS staff.
I would like to start by paying tribute to the tireless work that our doctors and nurses perform, not least of all the role of those doctors and nurses who have come from overseas to provide us all with our world-leading National Health Service.
I completely understand concerns regarding the impact of our withdrawal from the European Union on foreign nationals working in the NHS. That is why I welcome the Government's repeated commitment that all EU nationals working in the UK will be able to remain in the country with the same rights as they enjoy today.
I firmly believe that EU citizens are an important part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and their rights need to be secured. A new settled status scheme under UK law will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. This will enable EU nationals to continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector. To ensure this, I recently lobbied to have the proposed £65 charge removed so that EU citizens can register to remain the UK free of charge. You can read about my efforts here: https://www.huwmerriman.org.uk/news/local-mp-welcomes-reversal-eu-citiz…
Encouragingly, far from the referendum result leading to EU nationals working in the NHS to leave our country, the latest NHS workforce statistics show that there are over 4,300 more EU nationals working in the NHS than there were in June 2016. I would also note that the proportion of our NHS workforce made up by EU nationals has risen to 5.6 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent in 2010.
I voted for the Immigration Bill and it is my hope that the passage of the bill is the start of a national conversation on how we can have an independent immigration policy after we leave the European Union.