The “free movement of labour” can throw up some bizarre examples of why this much-trumpeted EU policy is not only absurd, but also counterproductive. Take the NHS as an example. Because of the “austerity” measures being pursued by the government, thousands of nursing jobs have been culled.
It is no surprise, then, that winter, and the pressures upon the NHS that these cold months bring, has forced the government to accept that it has a severe shortage of staff!
Its remedy? Poach nurses from overseas. Entice staff from other countries (EU and beyond) to plug Britain’s shortages. Bring staff from countries that themselves are struggling with basic health needs. This government is turning the NHS clock back to the 1950s.
A more bizarre illustration of the free movement of labour is happening in Britain’s ambulance services. The London Ambulance Service, for example, was told to “save” £50 million over five years and shed some 900 posts. Posts that when taken out would have a crucial effect on the patient care given to Londoners.
It is now, finally, accepted that the London Ambulance Service is short of clinically trained staff. The remedy? Poach paramedics from the EU states, New Zealand and Australia. It is difficult to believe that those countries have a surplus of paramedics.
While paramedics are coming in, paramedics are also going out. There has been a major targeting of London paramedics by countries such as Abu Dhabi offering tax-free salaries in return for one- or two-year contracts. NHS-trained staff are using their clinical skills, not on British citizens, but elsewhere. Is that “free movement of labour” – or the import and export of paramedics as mere commodities? ■