Scotland business

Brexit factor in 'care jobs emergency'

Elderly woman Image copyright PA
Image caption There have been calls for a government-backed campaign to encourage people to work in the care sector

Patients are dying in hospital because of a care sector staffing crisis, with Brexit a key factor, an industry recruiter has said.

Stephen Wilson, who has worked in care for 30 years, said patients were being denied the chance to live and die with dignity in their own homes.

He said care services relied on EU nationals to staff the sector, many of whom had left after the Brexit vote.

The UK government said EU citizens could apply to stay in the UK.

Ministers are planning to introduce a points-based immigration system after Britain leaves the EU.

'Worrying scenario'

Mr Wilson, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Novacare, said those measures would not solve what he described as a "national emergency".

He claimed up to 40% of care staff from other EU countries working in the UK left "virtually overnight" when Britain voted to leave the European Union three years ago.

He told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There's only one person who suffers as a consequence of that, and these are service-users who are sitting in hospital or sitting in the community looking for a support package and not getting it.

"And they can sit there for weeks or months or sometimes over a year.

"The sad thing is, as we sit here today, there are people dying in hospital not having received that package, not being able to live and die with dignity in their own homes."

Novacare has launched a consultation project to help with recruitment issues, which has been approved for funding through economic development agency Scottish Enterprise.

It is available to all Scotland-based care providers, with grants available to cover costs.

Mr Wilson said "very few" remaining workers had applied for settled status and he described the points system as "a worrying scenario".

He added: "People who work in the health and social care sector really work for the living wage, which is around about £18,400 a year.

"The points-based system currently is projected at £30,000 a year, so there are very few roles within health and social care that pay that level."

'National emergency'

He also warned that more than 90% of care was delivered by people without a qualification, and would not qualify for a Tier 2 general work visa - issued to those outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland to work in the UK.

Mr Wilson called for more UK government involvement in helping to recruit care staff, adding: "This is a national emergency and it really calls for a national approach."

He said there were currently 110,000 care sector jobs unfilled in England alone and that the industry was struggling nationally to attract young people.

"Last year about 40% of applications came from under-25s. This year its just 15%," said Mr Wilson.

"That really is down to EU nationals making up a large number of last year's applicants."

The UK government has said EU free movement rules will end immediately if there is a no-deal Brexit.

For the latest business news as it happens, follow BBC presenter Andrew Black's updates each weekday morning on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme between 0600 and 0900.