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Brexit could exacerbate care sector nurse shortages, warns leading Lib Dem


Nursing staff shortages in care homes could get worse in the wake of Brexit adding to a looming “crisis” in the sector, a former minister has warned.

Norman Lamb, now Liberal Democrat spokesman for health, told a conference of care providers yesterday that the sector was “living on borrowed time” due to chronic under-funding amid rising demand.

“There are a huge number of vacancies in the care sector particularly for nurses”

Norman Lamb

He highlighted the fact that many providers were now shying away from public sector contracts, which were necessary to ensure care for some of the most vulnerable frail and elderly people.

“I hear too many cases of providers warning that they may leave the publicly funded system to focus on private care,” he told the Care England annual conference in London.

Meanwhile, providers are also struggling with staffing shortages that could get worse when the UK leaves the European Union, he warned delegates.

“There are a huge number of vacancies in the care sector particularly for nurses,” said Mr Lamb, who was a care minister in the former coalition government.

“That could get worse if, as a result of Brexit, there is a real clamp down on immigration because the system depends on workers from other parts of the EU coming to work in health and care,” he said

He reiterated calls for the establishment of an independent cross-party commission to look at the future of health and social care and produce a “21st Century Beveridge Report”.

“The public doesn’t know the scale of the challenges and gaps”

Norman Lamb

Crucially, he said there was a need to re-balance resources away from the acute sector, with more investment in preventative services in community, primary and social care.

Increasing funding for acute services at the same time as cutting funding for other parts of the system was “self-defeating” and simply piled more pressure on the NHS, he warned.

Instead, there was a need to move towards a single, pooled budget and a single commissioning process to eradicate the “fault line” between health and social care.

Mr Lamb said the public must be part of the debate but, at the moment, most people had little understanding of the scale of funding problems because of a failure to communicate and what he described as “a conspiracy of silence”.

“The public doesn’t know the scale of the challenges and gaps in health and care funding,” he said.

He told the conference that health and care services “could be much smarter in the way they use money”, including investing in technology to boost communication and information sharing that helped prevent care failings.

“It is incredible that we still have faxes flying around the NHS every day of the week, every week of the year,” he said.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I started working in the NHS in 1974 as a nurse. East European staff were unavailable then as their governments wouldn't let them out, and we managed. Perhaps if this country faced up to the facts as to why we can't train enough of the population living here might go someway to address the problem, but that would have unpleasant fiscal implications. So the solution is to go back to the SEN, (now called associate practitioner). This country also has to stop poncing much needed professionals from poorer countries who desperately need them at home for their own populations. Very amusing how the ruling liberal policymakers keep lecturing us all about diversity but are happy to cause problems for the very countries they pretend to support.

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  • Be amazed if there are adequate staff left to care, the locally born population are significantly ageing and many of the younger people have chosen other careers due to the significant drop in salaries over the last decade. If we loose the fine colleagues from overseas, even if we manage to recruit replacements, they will lack experience and our nation risks becoming introverted and lack innovation due to less mixing of backgrounds.

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  • Why should control on immigration (if there is one in a post-British exit from the EU) affect nurses coming to the UK? Even before the UK was even in the EU (1974), the NHS relied heavily on nurses and doctors from the former commonwealth (India, Pakistan, West Indies). Having "control" over immigration does not equate with "stopping" it. Which government would do that? It would be foolish. MPs and the media should stop scaremongering about leaving the EU.

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