Care workers must be prioritised under new migration rules to stop a post-Brexit shortfall in provision that would leave women quitting work to look after elderly relatives, according to a leaked government report.
In the "worst case scenario" where European Union migrants were stopped from coming to the UK, there would be a shortage of 6,000 doctors, 12,000 nurses and 28,000 care staff within five years.
Staffing problems would pose a "wider risk to labour market participation" as families were left to fill the gap in care provision, and the issue would "especially" hit women", the Department of Health and Social Care report seen by The Telegraph said.
Labour accused the Government of making the crisis in social care worse with its "chaotic approach" to Brexit.
The report, a submission to the independent Migration Advisory Committee, says migration will need to "continue to play a vital role" in meeting future demand in health and care.
"It is vitally important that any approach to migration prioritises the health and care sector," the document, which was drawn up under former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, states.
Around 7% of all adult social care staff are EU migrants, equivalent to 90,000 workers, according to the report.
"The risks to EEA workforce supply need to be considered in the context of continued rising demand across the health and care system," it adds.
"Considering rising life expectancy, population structural changes as well as increases in the number of people living with one or more long-term conditions, there are significant demand implications for the health and social care workforce.
"Unless we ensure such demand is met, there is a wider risk to labour market participation more generally, especially when considering increasing social care needs. If we fail to meet social care needs adequately we are likely to see a decrease in labour market participation levels, especially among women, as greater numbers undertake informal care."
Barbara Keeley, shadow social care minister, said: "The Government has totally failed to address the crisis in social care putting an increasing burden on family carers and meaning many carers have to give up work because the support they need just isn't there.
"And now the Government's chaotic approach to Brexit is making the workforce crisis in social care even worse.
"Ministers should immediately make clear that health and care staff are welcome here to care for our sick and our elderly after Britain leaves the European Union."
Asked about the report, Theresa May's official spokesman said: "Once we leave the EU, we will put in place a new immigration system and we will ensure that immigration system best serves the country's needs."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We recognise the invaluable contribution of the social care workers and we are confident of reaching a deal with the EU which benefits our health and care workforce.
"Our white paper sets out our ambition to introduce a system which mutually recognises qualifications across borders to ensure dedicated EU staff can continue to work in the UK uninterrupted."
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