Immigration and the NHS 2015 - 2016


This project investigates the effects of immigration on the provision of services in the NHS. The project puts emphasis on two areas:
1) The impact of immigration on waiting times for Accidents and Emergency (A&E), elective care and outpatients’ services.
2) The impact of immigration on maternity care.

Legal residents of the UK, including non-UK nationals, have free access to the NHS. This free access has resulted in speculation that immigrants may increase the demand for NHS services disproportionately. Immigration has no impact on the “price” of NHS services (i.e. free). However, the arrival of immigrants combined with the fact that the supply of NHS services is mostly inelastic in the short-run, suggests that immigration may increase waiting times and/or affect the quality of services. On the other hand, if immigrants are healthier and/or less likely to seek care, then waiting times may decrease even if the supply of services does not adjust. Finally, immigration may also result in an increase of the supply of health care personnel, as many doctors and nurses come to the UK from overseas.

Principal Investigator

Carlos Vargas-Silva


Osea Giuntella
Catia Nicodemo


John Fell Fund


Blavatnik School of Government
Centre for Health Service Economics & Organisation (CHSEO)

News & Media

Cutting immigration would mean higher taxes or deeper spending cuts, OBR warns
The Independent (cites working paper) | 28 Mar 2016

Immigration may reduce the time you wait to see the doctor
LSE British Politics and Policy Blog | 13 Oct 2015

High immigration to an area actually reduces NHS waiting times there, research finds
Independent (cites working paper) | 8 Oct 2015

Immigrants ‘Help NHS Waiting Times Go Down’, Report Shows, Despite What Theresa May Just Said
Huffington Post (quotes Carlos Vargas-Silva) | 7 Oct 2015

Facts and Fiction in the UK Immigration Debate
Huffington Post Blog (cites working paper) | 6 Oct 2015

A transfusion, not a leech
The Economist (cites working paper) | 26 Sep 2015


European UnionLow Skilled MigrationNeighbourhoods




The Effects of Immigration on NHS Waiting Times
Working Papers | Osea Giuntella, Catia Nicodemo & Carlos Vargas-Silva | 2015