Wes Streeting: Labour would ban NHS hiring from ‘red list’ countries

The Government found that around 35 per cent of doctors and 20 per cent of nurses come to the UK from red list countries - Jeff Moore/PA

Labour would stop the recruitment of NHS doctors and nurses from countries which have shortages of health workers, Wes Streeting has said.

The shadow health secretary said it was “immoral” for Britain to poach medical graduates from so-called “red list” nations in Africa and Asia.

His remarks come after a report for the Government found that around 35 per cent of doctors and 20 per cent of nurses come to the UK from such countries. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ghana are the red list nations which export the largest numbers of medical workers to Britain.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting made the statement, upon a visit to Three Counties Medical School in Worcester, with Keir Starmer - Stefan Rousseau/PA

During a campaign visit to Worcester, Mr Streeting was asked whether Labour would discourage such recruitment if it wins the election.

He told reporters: “We should not be recruiting from red list countries. I do not want to see that happening. I think it is immoral. It’s unethical.

“Those countries have a severe shortage and the moral and ethical thing to do would be not to recruit from those countries.

“There are, of course, other countries not on the red list and we do recruit from there. But what I want to do, over time, for a serious workforce plan, is reduce our reliance on overseas workers and to bring down net migration.”

Last December, a report for the Government by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) warned of growing recruitment from red list countries. It found that 15 per cent of overseas doctors are recruited from Nigeria and 13 per cent from Pakistan – despite both  countries having their own staff shortages.

With regards to nurses, 13 per cent came from Nigeria, 4 per cent from Ghana and 3 per cent from Zimbabwe. Large numbers of care workers also came from those countries.

Government policy states that there “must be no active international recruitment from countries on the red list” unless a specific deal is in place. But the MAC warned that the proliferation of online advertising – and in particular the use of social media algorithms – may be circumventing that.

Labour used the seventh full day of election campaigning to push its plans for the NHS, including providing 40,000 new appointments per week. During a session with student nurses at the University of Worcester, Mr Streeting warned that the service has become too reliant on overseas workers.

He also said Labour has “no plans” to reverse Tory changes to visa rules, which stop foreign healthcare workers from bringing family members to the UK. Rishi Sunak brought in the measures in December, as part of plans to cut record levels of net migration by as much as 300,000 per year.