We heard it again from Labour MP Lucy Powell last night on Question Time. It could have been Owen Jones, some lefty newspaper editor, Russell Brand, or anyone else looking to label any right minded politician ‘racist’. Except it’s not the right that’s racist, it’s the left.
We are told that without immigration the National Health Service (NHS) would collapse. Anyone ever thought to ask why?
Immigration as a labour source has always been a choice. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a choice. Since 2010 the number of medics recruited from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries has plummeted due to both a reduction in overall recruitment and to severe limits on immigration to compensate for EU net migration over which we have no control.
Around 40 per cent of UK medics are from the Asian subcontinent, about 15 per cent from the EEA and the rest are UK graduates. Foreign nurses make up about 20 per cent of the total and 80 per cent of those are from outside the European Union (EU).
Many are on permanent contracts and were actively recruited during the Labour Party’s years in power. There was a real shortfall of nurses before 1997 and part of the import drive was simply making up the deficit rapidly. There is no shame in that.
Longer term it is easier to import than train our own because long term investment in training takes time to show results – not a great tactic when it comes to elections. In 2003 more than half of new nurses registered were non-UK; this has since fallen markedly as the UK has trained more nurses and recruited less.
While foreign health care workers make up a significant share of NHS staff, their recruitment has come in waves over decades and was planned. This hasn’t happened elsewhere in Europe. In Finland 98 per cent of nurses are Finns; for doctors that falls to 93 per cent. The UK is the only EU country that relies on asset stripping the third world for a significant proportion of its healthcare workers.
That is an anomaly we have no reason to be proud of. This statement says nothing about the quality of their work or professionalism, but it is racist to single immigrants out for praise. It is patronising and it ignores the fact we choose to bottleneck training places in the UK, and have not dealt with the issue of long term emigration from the UK. Reliance on foreign labour is a choice based on political failure.
You can want quality, you can want value, and you can have it quickly. Systems can usually only choose two out of three of these and the NHS has chosen to not invest long term in ensuring sufficient UK trained staff. It’s that simple.
Reliance on foreign labour is not a feature of social science professors, career politicians, nor for that matter of the police, teachers, architects and military personel. In fact if the UK relied on India and Pakistan for 40 per cent of our armed forces there’d be riots; if foreign nationals could stand for parliament and take a pay cut maybe our MPs would see this issue differently.
The fact is left wing evangelists of the NHS are nothing of the sort. They are racists, heritable creditors of the attitude of that first wave of managers of nationalised industries; former colonial administrators with a casual attitude towards using ‘coolies‘ to get the job done.
Ask any medical student or junior doctor off record about how they see Asian staff grade doctors treated and you will find yourself thrown back sixty years. They are essentially trapped in non training jobs, doing the lion’s share of work in many hospitals, freeing up consultants to train British trainees. This divide is so widespread and common that it barely registers in the daily thinking of junior doctors. You won’t see any protesting about how staff grades are treated.
But you should. It is institutionalised racism, no different to the type you hear on Question Time telling you that without foreign workers our NHS would collapse, like some oversized cocoa plantation or rubber estate.
No doctor is better or worse for being British or foreign. To take that further and place some premium on importing staff to mask our own blatant failure to train our own is disgraceful and those defending this failure should be called out for the racists they are.