EU nurses must have right to stay if there is no Brexit deal, warns RCN chief

Need for EU nurses to remain in the UK is clear and government must guarantee their right to stay, RCN says

Picture: iStock

Need for EU nurses to remain in the UK is clear and government must guarantee their right to stay, says RCN general secretary Janet Davies

The right of EU nurses to stay in the UK must be guaranteed even if the UK leaves without a Brexit agreement, the RCN says.

The government announced a settlement scheme for EU citizens last week that involves a fee and an online application, and will launch in phases starting later this year.

Welcoming the announcement as being ‘not before time’, Ms Davies said the government must stick to its word even in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

‘EU nationals need a firm commitment from the government that, even in the case of no deal, today’s promises still hold,’ she said.

Greater commitment

Last week also marked the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush immigrants from the Caribbean.

Ms Davies highlighted the issue of how the Home Office treated the Windrush generation’s right to live in the UK as evidence of the need for a greater commitment from the government for EU citizens.

She said the need for EU nurses to remain in the UK was clear. ‘There are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in the NHS in England alone, and that number would rise further if EU nationals felt they had no choice but to leave,’ she said.

Picture: iStock

Mixed messages and uncertainty

‘European nurses have put up with two years of uncertainty, mixed messages and even being used as bargaining chips.’

She also offered the government the college’s assistance in ensuring their new settlement scheme was fit for purpose.

‘The RCN is willing to work with government to test the scheme and ensure it is genuinely simple and fast, as intended,’ she said.

Assurances needed

But with millions of applications likely before next March, EU nurses needed assurances that the Home Office would be able to meet the challenge and costs would be kept to a minimum.

In a statement on 22 June, health minister James O’Shaughnessy welcomed the contribution of EU nurses to the UK. He said: ‘Our EU nurses are a vital part of our NHS and social care workforce. We want their expertise and compassionate care to continue to help this country deliver world-class healthcare now and in the future.’

Mr O’Shaughnessy said the scheme should allow nurses to easily secure their right to stay. ‘We want to reassure nurses that we hugely value their life-saving work,’ he said.

Details of the settlement scheme for EU nationals

  • Applications will be via a short online process
  • Most EU citizens will only need to prove their identity and demonstrate their residence in the UK. They will be required to declare whether they have any criminal convictions and checks will be made to confirm that they are not a serious or persistent criminal
  • It will cost £65, or £32.50 for children under 16
  • It will be free for those with valid documented permanent residence or valid indefinite leave to remain or enter

Imperative that process is fast and simple

Health and social care lobby group the Cavendish Coalition welcomed the government's announcement. The coalition’s 37 members aim to ensure the health and social care sectors’ workforce is maintained in a post-Brexit Britain.

Coalition co-chair Danny Mortimer said: ‘We are pleased the system is still on track to open to applications later this year. It is imperative this process is fast, simple and with a low administrative burden for individuals.’

Rights for citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland  living in the UK are still being negotiated.

Further information

Government Guidance: Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know

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