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EU migrants stop NHS flatlining

by Luke Lythgoe | 05.04.2016

Vote Leave says “uncontrolled EU immigration is putting a huge strain on our public services”. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Express are also quick to make the link between NHS woes and a “massive influx of EU migrants”.

But generally young and healthy EU migrants help support Britain’s ageing population by making a positive net contribution to our welfare system and by staffing the NHS.

EU migrants are good for the NHS

EU migration benefits the NHS for two main reasons. Firstly, EU nationals living and working in the UK pay more into the British welfare system than they take out. According to UCL research, between 2001 and 2011 nationals from the European Economic Area (EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) made a net contribution of £22.1 billion. Native Britons were a net drain to the tune of £624.1 billion.

Secondly, new NHS figures show 4.5% of its workforce is from EU countries. The figure is higher for professionally qualified clinical staff, with 6% of nurses and health visitors and nearly 9% of doctors coming from the EU.

Young migrants in an ageing population

The UK population grew by just under five million between 2004 and 2014. Recent figures show 1.6 million EU nationals now settled in the UK arrived between 2006 and 2014.

In the decade to 2011, the number of people aged 65 and over rose by a million to 10.4 million. Of these, 6.4 million were British, making up 15% of the total British population. By comparison, 74,000 people aged 65 and over held EU passports – just 3.9% of the 1.8 million non-British EU nationals recorded on the census.

What’s more, while the native British population is getting older, the EU population in the UK is getting younger. The average age of native Britons has risen by two years to 40, but that of EU nationals has dropped by two years to 34.

A&E: the four-hour wait

The Mail blames EU migration for longer A&E waiting times. Visits have “skyrocketed” by 59% in 10 years, and the number of people left waiting longer than the four-hour target has trebled.

Research by health charity the King’s Fund points to different causes. Firstly, much of the jump in attendance figures is down to the fact that the data now also include walk-in centres and minor injury units. Secondly, increased numbers turning up at A&E do not cause longer waiting times.

For example, about 10,000 more people a day visited A&E in summer 2014/15 than in winter, yet winter waiting times were longer. One reason, the King’s Fund argues, is that more older people attend A&E in winter, and they are the ones who, for various reasons, tend to wait longer.

Add into the mix other factors like staff shortages and people showing up at A&E unnecessarily, and EU migration becomes a small part of a complex picture.

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EU babies

The Express takes particular umbrage at EU mothers having babies at the NHS’s expense, arguing nearly 476,000 births cost the NHS a “staggering” £1.3 billion. It transpires this was the cost over a decade; the sum for 2014 was £169 million.

Put into context, this figure is only 0.15% of the NHS’s £113.3 billion annual budget. Dementia costs the NHS £4.3 billion per year, with 810,000 people aged 65 and over afflicted. Britain’s elderly are a far more significant strain on the NHS, and the UK will need younger people – including those 476,000 EU babies – to support an increasingly long-lived population.

InFacts contacted Vote Leave, the Mail Online and the Daily Express but received no comment.

This article was corrected on 5 April to acknowledge University College London (UCL) and to change “over 65” to “65 and over”. It was further updated on 17 May to change “EU nationals” to “nationals from the European Economic Area”.

Edited by Alan Wheatley

9 Responses to “EU migrants stop NHS flatlining”

  • “According to UCL research, between 2001 and 2011 EU nationals made a net contribution of £22.1 billion. Native Britons were a net drain to the tune of £624.1 billion” Those native Britons paid the taxes that created the NHS!

    Statements like this are so wrong and insulting on every level. I don’t think any politician will get on a podium and repeat this!

    The rest of your article is tendentious; and that’s being charitable.

    PS why don’t the native Brits all leave?

  • Hi Luke,

    “EU migrants are good for the NHS because 4.5% of its workforce is from EU countries.”

    Why do you say that this is good for the NHS?

    – Are you suggesting that if it weren’t for Britain’s membership of the EU there would be 48,000 staff vacancies (4.5%), and the NHS would “flatline” as a result?

    – Why do you expect the number of EU workers in the NHS would be any less if the UK weren’t a member of the EU, given that 149,000 workers from non-EU countries have jobs within the NHS (15% of the NHS workforce)?

    – Why would it be “less good” for the NHS if the job positions of EU workers were instead filled by British or Non-EU workers?

    – Like you say, ‘uncontrolled’ immigration from EU countries is very probably one of a number of contributors to the reported high levels of demand on NHS services. However a significant side effect of ‘uncontrolled’ EU immigration is the corresponding increase of controls placed on non-EU immigration by the UK government. This makes it harder (or less likely) for the NHS to recruit skilled staff from non-EU countries, and obviously easier (more likely) to recruit from EU countries – but how can this be interpreted as being ‘good’ for the NHS? Surely the NHS should be able to hire the best staff for the job – based on skills and job suitability, rather than their country of origin?

    It is certainly a fact that 4.5% of the NHS is staffed by workers from other EU countries, but why does InFacts argue this is good for the NHS? Perhaps a follow-up?

    Luke Wheeler
    Pollstation UK

    • What you muppets from the “INs” cannot seem to grasp is, Immigration would NOT stop WHEN we leave the corrupt and greedy EU.
      However we will be allowing ONLY the people with the skills required & NOT the undesirables who can legally walk into OUR Country as it is now.
      If we remain “IN” (God help us if that is the case) TTIP will be FORCED upon us and this will be TRAGIC for the NHS.
      Be very careful what you wish for as you may regret it.
      And take note. ..We will NOT get another chance to be free from the shackles of the EUROPEAN UNION.

  • The NHS is at risk of backdoor privatisation by this ttip agreement if Cameron says it wont you can bet your last dollar it will if he said Tuesday follows Monday ld have to check on calender hes told that many lies

  • It saddens me that you do not mention the many immigrants working in the NHS from outside the EU, people from the African sub-continent, India, Pakistan and the Caribbean to mention but a few. Many, many more than from the EU, and have been here much longer than the UK has been a member of the EU. These are the immigrants that have kept the NHS from flat-lining, but now, due to open door immigration from the EU, our government sees fit to not only make it more difficult for migrants to come to the UK from outside the EU, but are actively making it more difficult for those that are already here to be able to stay. I can only assume as you support our membership of the EU that you also support the current immigration policy. In-Facts or In-Fiction ?

  • Let’s dispell a few myths here: first of all I am an Italian qualified NHS Radiology Consultant and being in Radiology I perform and report exams from every corner of the Healthcare System from A7E to the last hospital Ward, from GPs to every Outpatients Clinics.
    1) The fact is that the UK already can employ professionals from non-EU countries. Infact there are already several hospital managers hiring nurses directly from the Philippines, moreover there are attempts to employ Indian GPs in UK but at the moment there is a UK based controversy on this move on the supposed basis that perhaps they might not be adapt to the UK Healthcare System (for what it can mean). Therefore EU is completely out of the equation here. 2) The great vast majority of patients I see are from not from EU (and I have worked from London, to the East Anglia, to Scotland, Northern Ireland and now in the Midlands). This is because they are almost all of them young and basically healthy or thinking not in need of healthcare. I would say that not more than 3 every 100 patients are EU nationals. This can easily been verified just by passing by any A&E and Outpatient clinical waiting rooms or GP waiting rooms. 3) The idea that UK alone, wanting a free trade deal with the US can have it without TTIP is nonsense. Either the whole idea of TTIP will be scrapped (also for the US-EU actual free trade negotiations) – if Obama’s successor would move in such direction, or it will be retained, in which case or UK will accept it in full (much reduced clout on its own compared to the whole EU – just in view of market size: 60 million vs 400 million), while the EU is still trying to water down the provisions that can put in danger its public services (for example France healthcare system has been voted at least once the best in the world and consistently by far outperforms the NHS – see WHO – World Health Organization reports. The Italian healthcare is also by far public and it will be fiercely fought to keep it that way as it was public at least since the late XIX century), 4) The real problem with NHS is severe underivestment coupled with mis-management (see Junior doctor debacle), and this leads to…5) It is more likely that trainees UK doctors (junior doctors) leave the NHS to go to Australia, New Zealand and Canada rather than the way round (for me it is OK as I am a Consultant and not in training position but I as well as my senior colleagues fully understand the anguish of the junior doctors)…, and 6) All the taxes that the EU nationals (including myself) have contributed into, where have gone? Answer: just into the attempted deficit reduction, 7) If really – as it seems almost certain – the quitting of the UK will produce a contraction in the UK economy, there will be less money to provide into the NHS (and also if the UK would even kick out all of the EU nationals already here – it cannot due to the Vienna Convention – the NHS will further sink into trouble to the detriment of the patients in UK), 8) the EU students in UK Universities have spent last year in tuition and living expenses 3.7 billion pounds to the benefit of UK economy. If as it will be logical the future EU students, in a post-brexit scenario, will be treated like now the non-EU students are treated in terms of difficult visas, higher tuition fees and the risk of title not recognized in the res of the EU, those EU students will be going to other EU Universities (Germany, France, Austria, etc), while EU programmes such as Erasmus will be shut for future UK students who would want to experience EU Universities exchanges.

  • The lies should be revealed i know a caller that calls up to 600 eu migrants to the uk , paid cash ,free flight and takes the cash back home or sends it some way, Someone do there homework please or dont post shit lies on here ,i can name names ,oh they also use our failing nhs .what a surprise , i think were due to recieve africans and various other shit as they like it here?