The Government is committed to increasing the number of staff in the NHS, both in the short-term and for the future.
I completely understand concerns regarding the impact of our withdrawal from the European Union on foreign nationals working in the NHS. There are roughly 150,000 EU nationals working in the NHS today, and I would like to echo the Secretary of State in saying how much I value their hard work and care in the health service.
A new settled status scheme under UK law will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. This will ensure that EU nationals will have their rights protected, and can continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector.
I also welcome recent announcements to train and recruit 25 per cent more doctors and nurses every year. That is roughly 1,500 more doctors, and 5,000 more nurses being trained on the NHS, and the Government is working closely with universities to ensure that our higher education sector is prepared to train a new generation of recruits.
Regarding the Tier 2 visa cap, all doctors and nurses have been exempt since July 2018. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has suggested a salary threshold for skilled workers of £30,000. This is to ensure that migrants are making a positive contribution to the UK economy, paying into the public finances and not placing downward pressure on earnings.
Designing a comprehensive new immigration system will of course take time and consideration. That is why the Government has taken on board the MAC's proposals, while continuing to consult employers, devolved authorities and others to determine whether the threshold is at the right level. As the White Paper released before Christmas makes clear, the Government believes there should be some flexibility where skills are in shortage.