On the 21st of July, I made a speech in the Lords calling on the Government to clarify urgently the status of EU nationals working in health and social care in the UK. I also underlined how important it is that NHS providers retain the ability to recruit staff from the EU.
You can find my speech in full here.
As we have heard in the debate, the UK’s vote to leave the EU will without doubt have major implications for health and social care, not least because it has ushered in a period of major economic and political uncertainty at a time when the health and care system faces huge operational and financial pressures, as we have debated so many times in this Chamber. The NHS faces an extremely challenging set of circumstances. Demand, particularly from our ageing population, continues to grow faster than funding, putting further pressure on an already strained service. Fundamental change in how we provide care is urgently needed if the NHS is to be successful in meeting the twin challenges of providing high-quality services while balancing the books. To do this it is vital that we have the right numbers of staff with the right skills in the right place, and ensure that they feel valued, welcome and engaged in the work that they do—hence the debate we are having this afternoon.
I end by raising an issue that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, also mentioned. It is about that lie—that most flagrant and disgraceful lie—of the leave campaign. I have to say that there was very stiff competition for that particular accolade, but it is the lie where we were told that £350 million extra per week would be available for the NHS—it was plastered all over the campaign buses. Then of course it was retracted, even before the ink was dry on the results. But the public, quite understandably, now have an expectation that NHS spending will rise after the UK leaves the EU. I have never been very good at maths but I just made a little calculation. It is four weeks now—to the day, I think—since the referendum, so my calculation tells me that, four weeks on, £1.4 billion is now owed to the NHS. Can the Minister tell us whether that money has yet been received and, if not, how quickly he expects that money to be in the Department of Health coffers?