In the news today it can be seen that thousands of foreign nurses working in the UK may be required to leave under the Government's new immigration rules.... Or at least that's the story as offered by union leaders.
Perhaps I'm being too conspiratorial when I say that when the BBC runs an article entitled 'Migration rules may cause NHS chaos', you have a nagging feeling that this is the BBC's rather clever way of doing a positive editorial (in the dis/guise of a news item) on the unadulterated glories of immigration (in the style of the BBC's very own Mark Easton).
What the BBC and many others consistently fails to mention is that most new immigrants (as well as many old ones) claim benefits and/or are unemployed. That's why the NHS-needs-immigrants story is trotted out so much. Sure, many immigrants do work for the NHS; though does it follow that the NHS would grind to a halt without them? And even if that's true, why did we allow this to become the case in the first place? Is it, as with other areas, that these immigrants are prepared to accept lower wages than British workers? And if that's the case, is that also automatically a good thing?
Indeed low wages is part of this story. If immigrants earn less than £35,000 after being in the UK for six years, they'll be required to leave the UK. Not only that: this is a specific Government action to help reduce the need for immigrant workers in the NHS and elsewhere.
In response to union scaremongering, a Government spokesman has said that that all those involved have had four years to prepare for these changes. He also said: "There are exemptions to this threshold where the UK has a shortage."
All in all, then, this is part of the Government's plan to cut net immigration. Having said, according to unions, only 3,300 NHS nurses will be affected – and that's by 2017. So considering the fact that there are 400,000 nurses working in the NHS, that's a relatively small number.