SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said British government plans to raise the minimum salary for foreign workers will prevent the recruitment of health and social care staff.
Mr McGrath said the Tories were more interested in shoring up their bleak electoral prospects than addressing the issues within the health service.
He said that foreign workers were vital to a number of different sectors and the proposals would have serious consequences for the economy.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“This latest stunt from the Tories to appeal to the worst instincts of the far-right as they make a last-ditch attempt to garner support ahead of the upcoming election will have disastrous consequences for staffing within our health and social care system and other sectors that rely on foreign workers. Following Brexit and the hostile atmosphere that has been created as a result we have seen many skilled workers choose to leave these islands and this move will only make things worse.
“In the North we are already in a situation where we are finding it next to impossible to recruit the health and social care staff we need. Creating barriers to foreign workers coming here will give us an even smaller pool of talent to chose from and is a huge disservice to our talented doctors, nurses, carers and other health staff who have made their home here and care for people in our hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes every single day.
“Health is not the only sector that has hugely benefitted from the contributions of foreign workers. Our manufacturing and agricultural sectors are also hugely reliant on workers from outside Britain and Ireland and an inability to recruit more staff would have a hugely negative impact on these industries and our economy as a whole.
“As usual the Tories are totally deaf to the needs of the North and its people and would think nothing of decimating our workforce to serve their own ends. At a time when our health service is in crisis and crying out for staff this is the last measure we should be considering. The SDLP will be making our opposition to these plans loud and clear at Westminster and will petition the next government to reverse these harmful policies if the Tories are booted from power.”