Salary is the wrong measure for health staff

We must place more weight on the value people bring to society rather than their salary.

The NHS is very reliant on people from other countries. Doctors and nurses from Europe and further afield make up a significant chunk of our healthcare workforce and as such, it is important that it is easy for them to be able to work here.

The health service in our country is very dependent on freedom of movement.

At present there are 100,000 vacancies in the NHS. Wards are short of nursing staff, junior doctors are overstretched having to fill rota-gaps in hospitals and the UK has 1,000 fewer GPs than it had two years ago.

We were told then, by the Secretary of State for Health, that he would ensure that there were 5,000 extra GPs. By that reckoning we now need 6,000 extra GPs. The Government’s new rules for life after Brexit have the potential to be extremely damaging for the NHS and for all health services in this country.

The proposed restrictions on people coming to work in the UK are that they must be coming to a job that will pay them £30,000 or more.

It is difficult to decide whether the government thinks that it is already paying those who work in healthcare at this level of salary or if it is just ignoring the needs of the NHS. It may be news to the government but it certainly isn’t news to healthcare workers that many of their salaries fall a good deal short of this target.

A nurse’s starting salary is £23,000 and there are many other important roles in the NHS that pay under £30,000.

The Immigration Minister has admitted that there is “a lot of concern” especially about social care, which may decline even further if these plans go ahead. NHS chiefs have warned the government that these plans are “destructive” to the NHS and that a quarter of all services may have to close. It seems bizarre, when the NHS is so short of staff, and when it relies so much on attracting workers from overseas to fill the posts that are vacant at present, that the government should put this sort of barrier in place.

The threat of Brexit has left many in the NHS feeling uncertain about what the future holds for them and does raise some difficult questions, particularly for staff considering coming here, whether it is an organisation they would feel happy to work in.

Indeed, a recent report by the BMA highlighted the serious levels of burnout that many medical students and junior doctors are facing. We are also hearing more about hardworking nurses being on the breadline despite working around the clock to provide dedicated care for patients. What thanks do they get?

100,000 vacancies tell a story of its own; something is clearly not working. The Government must seriously reconsider any proposals that could create further holes in the NHS workforce.

Rather than measure by salary we should measure by value. This is particularly true when salaries in this country are by no means reflective of some of the value people bring to society and others.

* Dr Mary McCarthy is chair of the local medical committee and represents Shropshire, North Staffordshire and South Staffordshire on the General Practitioners Committee of the BMA. She has worked at Belvidere Surgery in Shrewsbury for more than 20 years.

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