Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Home Office figures obtained by Peter Lilley MP for Hitchin and Harpenden reveal that the government issued a further 5,687 work permits to nurses and doctors from Africa since Jan 2006 bringing the total number issued since 2000 to over 57,000.

    Yet only last Tuesday The Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, claimed in the House of Commons that because of Britain’s uniquely “ethical policy … we do not take nurses from … Africa”.

    When challenged by Peter Lilley: “How does the Secretary of State square what she has just said about having an ethical policy on recruiting from Africa with the fact that the Government have issued work permits for 50,000 nurses and doctors from Africa since 2000?” she replied “We have stopped the process of direct recruitment from developing countries in Africa and elsewhere.” [Hansard col 1080 22/05/07]

    When he repeated the challenge the next day as to why the government were issuing such huge numbers of work permits in defiance of their “ethical policy” she replied that “Only last year we took nursing jobs off the skills shortage list.” [Hansard col 1364 23/05/07]

    Yet in response to a subsequent question tabled by Peter Lilley the Home Office today revealed that they have issued a further 5,687 work permits to nurses and doctors from Africa between Jan 2006 and March of this year.

    Moreover, the NHS Careers web site (www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/shortageOccInfo.shtml) reveals that the only nursing jobs taken off the skills shortage list last year were nurses with basic skills – those in bands 5 and 6. (Even they will still be able to obtain work permits if their prospective employer has first advertised the job in the UK). That change was only introduced because of the oversupply of British nurses completing basic training – not to prevent asset stripping African health services. The NHS web site actually advertises the fact that the more highly trained nurses can still obtain Work Permits to come to the UK without the prospective employer even needing to advertise the job here.
    It says “The following nurses will be unaffected by this change [removal from skills shortage list]: Nurses employed or engaged in the NHS at band 7 or 8 of Agenda for Change, or those employed or engaged in one or more of the following specialities: Audiology; Sleep/respiratory physiology; Neurophysiology; Cardiac physiology; Operating theatre nursing; Clinical radiology; Pathology; Critical care.”
    Peter Lilley said “It is a scandal that this government continues to asset strip Africa of the nurses and doctors it desperately needs. Since 2000 the government has issued a total of over 57,000 work permits to nurses and doctors from Africa. That is equivalent to roughly one in eight of the nurses across the continent when the Commission for Africa says that continent needs to treble the number of nurses over the coming decade. Having recently visited Africa and seen the crying need for trained medical staff my principal concern is that our government’s policy is making a tragic situation scandalously worse.”

    “In addition, nurses in my constituency who are unable to obtain jobs think it monstrous that the government should be allowing NHS jobs to be filled by nurses needed back in their home countries.”

    “But it is also a parliamentary scandal that a Secretary of State can sanctimoniously claim to be have a uniquely “ethical” policy which is the exact opposite of her government’s practice; can mislead the House of Commons two days in a row; refuses to apologise for that false statement; and then compounds her error by claiming to have ceased issuing permits when her own Departmental website advertises their availability.”

    “Patricia Hewitt says she is being ethical because the NHS does not directly recruit from Africa. Yet it is clear that nursing agencies are recruiting from Africa on a massive scale and the government is colluding with them by issuing work permits. What hypocrisy! She says ‘it is difficult to stop’ yet what could be easier than to stop issuing work permits?”

    Number of UK work permits issued to nurses and doctors from Africa by year.

    Occupation 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Jan
    2006 –
    2007 Total since 2000

    Nurses 4,632 7,407 9,852 9,619 9,477 7,458 5,108 53,553
    Doctors 0 264 1065 912 825 587 579 4,232

    Total 4,632 7,671 10,917 10,531 10,302 8,045 5,687 57,785

    SOURCES : For 2000 -2005, Hansard 2 May 2006 : Column 1437W
    For Jan 2006- March 2007 figures, the above and Written Answer No: 512 to Secretary of State for Home Department, Wednesday 6th June 2007.

    For further information phone Peter Lilley: 020 7219 4577 or 07720297956