There are approximately 12,000 EU nationals working across the Scottish health and social care sector. They are a skilled and valued group of workers and I believe it is important that they are provided with the certainty they need to continue living and working in the UK after Brexit.
As you may be aware, health is a devolved matter for Scotland. At present, I am concerned that Scotland’s NHS is at breaking point. It is important to note that even before the Brexit vote we were facing a workforce crisis in our NHS. We have an NHS workforce that is overworked, under pressure, under-resourced and underpaid. I support the NHS Workforce Commission, conducted by my colleagues in Scotland, to find solutions to this chronic shortage of NHS and social care staff across the sector. The Commission aims to develop a clear and ambitious workforce plan that will help build staff morale, and deliver an NHS and social care system fit for the 21st century.
I value the input EU staff make to our society and public services. That is why, at last year’s General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain, so that nurses, doctors and health professionals from the EU can continue to provide vital care to patients.
I assure you I will continue to press Ministers to do more to ensure that EU nationals working in the NHS feel valued and able to continue to make a vital contribution to health care in our country. We must ensure that Parliament, and all its members, are collectively doing all that we can to minimise the potential consequences of Brexit on our health and social care sector. I assure you I am committed to playing my full part.