Healthcare fears for staff if UK immigration plan followed
IF GUERNSEY were to introduce a points-based immigration system the care industry would struggle to fill positions, the healthcare sector has said.
Post-Brexit, Home Affairs has advised it would ‘carefully consider’ such a system, which, once the UK goes down that route, as it announced this week, requires overseas citizens to reach a points threshold based on various criteria to be able to work there.
Cathy Bailey, who is director of nursing of Guernsey Care Homes, including Summerland House in St Peter Port, said the island struggled to fill the roles as it is.
‘Guernsey has effectively no unemployment, therefore there are simply not enough local people to fill care positions,’ she said.
‘If Guernsey introduced a points-based system our industry would struggle.’
She added there was a misconception on why homes needed overseas workers to fill the roles.
‘We do not discriminate between local and non-locals in terms of pay and conditions, so this is not a case of employing cheap labour,’ she said.
‘Caring is perceived as a low-skilled job, the reality is that it is a very skilled job and requires a great deal of training and commitment, we invest heavily in providing the necessary training to ensure our residents get the best of care.
‘We want continuity of care for our residents who deserve nothing less, so introducing this type of system would have a detrimental effect on the whole of the care sector.’
Further concerns have been raised over what it would mean for a profession that remains, even now, a difficult sector to recruit and retain staff in.
Nick Trott, a director of CI Healthcare, said it would reduce its pool of available staff.
‘Without a doubt the proposed immigration system would be a disaster for our sector, for both the HSC and ourselves,’ he said.
‘Currently there is insufficient local labour with foreign workers forming the larger percentage of our employees.
‘Our imported staff also excel at work ethic and natural caring abilities, all of their specific qualities fall beneath the radar of the proposed system and would decimate staffing options.’
Les Bourgs Hospice ward manager Letishia Vermeulen agreed.
‘Staffing in general is always challenging for us as for all areas in healthcare due to the shortages of registered nursing staff in general,’ she said
‘However, it is not the only factor that compromises recruitment on the island in healthcare.’
Health & Social Care identified problems in health profession recruitment for both on-island and off-island staff due to a combination of factors including a general decline in numbers of qualified staff, more attractive packages elsewhere and uncertainties around Brexit.
Therefore it was suggested perhaps derogation from the system would work better.
‘Opting out of the system could work well for Guernsey in all industries,’ Mr Trott added.
‘It could increase the pool of quality labour available from which we could then carefully select staff, thereby easing both current shortfalls and staffing issues.
‘This issue needs more focus and consideration, rather than just falling in line with the UK.’
Low-skilled workers seeking employment in the UK would not get visas under post-Brexit immigration plans, they would have to earn the points to qualify for entry into the country.
The system will require 70 points in total to work there, with speaking English and having the offer of a skilled job with an approved sponsor giving them 50 points and additional points gained via qualifications, offered salary and selected job with sector shortages.