Nick Clegg: EU staff in NHS must be given immediate right to remain
European Union (EU) migrants working in the health service should be given an immediate right to remain under an ‘NHS passport’, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has urged.
The senior Liberal Democrat is pushing for all EU citizens to be given guarantees about their status after Brexit, but believes there is an urgent requirement to make the position clear for the 59,000 EU nationals working directly for the NHS.
Mr Clegg warned the NHS would ‘collapse’ without its EU staff.
Theresa May has said she wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, but only if the other 27 member states extend the same deal to Britons living in their countries.
The prime minister said she wants an early deal on the issue, but the Lib Dems said the NHS should not have to endure uncertainty about its staff over the coming months.
The government is facing a possible Lords defeat on the issue, with Labour and the Lib Dems part of a cross-party alliance backing changes to the European Union (Notification Of Withdrawal) Bill.
Mr Clegg said: ‘The NHS would collapse if we told all the doctors, nurses and other valued staff from other EU countries that they were no longer welcome here.
‘Not only would that be a slap in the face to those who have cared for and helped so many British people back to health, it would also seriously damage health care in this country and put the nation’s health at risk.’
Mr Clegg added: ‘You can’t have a hard Brexit and a strong NHS. Why won’t Theresa May do the decent thing and guarantee the right to remain for all EU citizens?’
Separate analysis by the TUC found there were 142,500 European Economic Area migrants working in the health and social care sector in England alone.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The government is creating appalling uncertainty for thousands of NHS workers and care workers.
‘It’s a terrible way to treat dedicated public servants. And if Brexit means they have to leave, our health and social care services will struggle to cope.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘As the government has repeatedly made clear, overseas workers form a crucial part of our NHS and we value their contribution immensely.
‘We want to see the outstanding work of doctors and nurses who are already trained overseas continue, but at the same time we have been very clear that we want to give more domestic students the chance to be doctors, given the enduring popularity of this as a career.’