Recent studies show that European workers now make up 7% of the care sector workforce in the UK. The number has risen by more than 40% in three years, according to official figures. This has prompted fears that Brexit will lead to a catastrophic staffing crisis across the sector.
The studies show a system that is heavily reliant on EU workers, with the proportion of the social care workforce from other European countries varying by region, from 2% in the north-east to 12% in London. The most recent figures available show the total of EU workers increasing from 65,000 in December 2013 to 92,00 by September last year.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Tory chair of the Commons health committee, responded to these figures by calling for the government to act not only to guarantee without delay the right of resident EU nationals to stay in the UK, but to draw up contingency plans to ensure EU workers can still come to work in the NHS and social care after the UK leaves the EU.
Jeremy Hunt has admitted himself that the system would not be able to operate without EU workers, but has been unable to offer any details ahead of negotiations, which will begin after article 50 is triggered next month.
David Davis, Brexit secretary, confirmed last week that it could take “years and years” to fill all the jobs that would otherwise have been done by EU immigrants. On a visit to Estonia, Mr Davis promised that Britain’s doors wont “suddenly shut”.