Nursing in crisis as expat nurses reject the NHS

Published:  13 Jun at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, UK, Ireland, England
The number of EU nurses registering to work in Britain’s National Heath Service has fallen to almost zero since the Brexit vote.

Whilst last July’s figures showed 1,304 EU nurses applying to work in the NHS, figures for April this year showed just 46 – a massive drop of 96 per cent since the Brexit referendum. Data from the Nursery and Midwifery Council (NMC), confirms rumours the NHS could not survive without trained expat medical professionals from the EU and elsewhere.

At the present time, shortages of around 30,000 nurses in England and an unspecified number in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland threaten the continuation of adequate medical care in the UK. Spokesperson for the Health Foundation charity Anita Charlesworth told the Guardian the shocking findings should be a wake-up call for health service leaders and politicians, as the situation threatens safe nursing care for NHS patients.

Action is needed, she added, in order to avoid further losses of medical staff from the EU, taking into account the Brexit vote is not the only reason for the shortfall in nursing professionals. EU and EEA nursing staff make up just over five percent of the sector’s workforce, with international recruitment of expat medical professionals plugging staffing gaps for some years to date. The massive decline in new EU-based applicants for NHS nursing and midwifery positions is thought to have been influenced by Theresa May’s refusal to guarantee the rights of EU expats working in the UK.

Janet Davies, CEO and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, the sector’s main trade union, has already stated assurances of the right to remain must be given to all foreign medical professionals working in Britain’s hospitals and clinics. Nursing welfare, she says, is now in crisis mode across all NHS sectors from A&E right through to elderly patient care, putting patients at risk on a daily basis.

According to a spokeswoman from the Department of Health, the need to reassure valued EU expat medical staff is understood. She added the department has made it clear to government that EU nurses’ rights must be protected as a priority in Brexit negotiations. Last March, the NHS announced a new nursing training programme aimed at reducing its dependency on expat nurses. By 2019, newly qualified nurses are expected to total around 2,000, but the introduction of student loans and the cancellation of bursaries is likely to affect the numbers applying.
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