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NHS cannot afford to lose EU nurses, RCN says

The value of EU nurses to the NHS has been reinforced by the RCN ahead of the prime minister triggering Article 50 and Britain's exit from the European Union on Wednesday (29).
EU nurses

The value of European Union (EU) nurses to the NHS has been reinforced by the RCN ahead of the prime minister triggering Article 50 this week.

Figures show a sharp fall in the supply of new EU nurses after the referendum and 2,700 from Europe have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

On Wednesday Theresa May is expected to formally trigger notice for Britain ending its membership of the EU and begin negotiations on future relations.

This will include whether EU nationals can remain within the UK after amendments to the Brexit Bill to secure their right to remain was blocked by the House of Commons.

Top priority

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said at the recent Chief Nursing Officer Summit in Birmingham that retaining EU

The value of European Union (EU) nurses to the NHS has been reinforced by the RCN ahead of the prime minister triggering Article 50 this week.


Retaining EU nurses is a ‘top priority’, says health secretary Jeremy Hunt.  Photo: iStock

Figures show a sharp fall in the supply of new EU nurses after the referendum and 2,700 from Europe have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.

On Wednesday Theresa May is expected to formally trigger notice for Britain ending its membership of the EU and begin negotiations on future relations.

This will include whether EU nationals can remain within the UK – after amendments to the Brexit Bill to secure their right to remain was blocked by the House of Commons.

‘Top priority’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said at the recent Chief Nursing Officer Summit in Birmingham that retaining EU nurses was ‘top priority’.

Figures show an average of 194 nurses registered each month in the September to December 2016 – compared to 797 per month in the same period in 2015.

One in every 15 nurses and midwives working in the NHS in England is from another EU country, but figures show an average of just 194 EU nurses registered to work in the UK between September and December 2016, compared to the same period the year before.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘If they fail to train the next generation of British nurses, the government must keep attracting the best from around Europe.

Welcome to stay

‘EU nationals working in the NHS need a clear signal from Theresa May that they are wanted and welcome to stay.

‘Her failure to guarantee their right to remain is leaving soaring numbers heading for the door. Few are able to live with such uncertainty.’

The RCN estimated there are currently 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK.

Ms Davies added: ‘The government is turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before.

23% fall

‘Nursing is a rewarding profession, but ministers seem intent on making it increasingly unattractive for young people here. They cannot afford to lose the international workers the NHS relies on.’

The number of applications to UK nursing degree courses fell by 23% this year following the government’s withdrawal of the bursary for students from August 2017.

A Nursing Standard investigation earlier this month found EU applications may also be down because of language tests introduced last year.


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