Comment

International outlook: implications of Brexit for nurses

How will the UK’s withdrawl from the European Union affect employment in the nursing profession?
Nursing in EU

How will the UKs withdrawal from the European Union (EU) affect employment in the nursing profession?

This time last year, the UK was engaged in the EU referendum campaign. There were arguments and assertions on both sides about the risks and benefits, including to the NHS, of staying or leaving.

Once the referendum was over, health and social care organisations quickly came together to form an alliance, the Cavendish Coalition, to ensure that the sectors voice is heard.

One of the most pressing issues has been the status of nationals from across the European Economic Area (EEA) already working in health and social care, and the need for them to be guaranteed the right to remain in the UK. There are currently 33,000 nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Councils register who trained in other EEA countries.

As we move

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How will the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) affect employment in the nursing profession?

Nursing in EU
Picture: iStock

This time last year, the UK was engaged in the EU referendum campaign. There were arguments and assertions on both sides about the risks and benefits, including to the NHS, of staying or leaving.

Once the referendum was over, health and social care organisations quickly came together to form an alliance, the Cavendish Coalition, to ensure that the sector’s voice is heard.

One of the most pressing issues has been the status of nationals from across the European Economic Area (EEA) already working in health and social care, and the need for them to be guaranteed the right to remain in the UK. There are currently 33,000 nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register who trained in other EEA countries.

As we move towards the complex Brexit negotiations, the nursing profession and healthcare sector will need to consider a wide range of issues. For example, what future migration arrangements can help to address urgent skills shortages without replacing planning and investment in our domestic workforce?

Do we want to retain the mutual recognition arrangements and minimum education standards that have been adopted across Europe? Or should we develop in a different direction?

Employment rights

How will government proposals to apply all EU legislation to the UK in the short term affect health and nursing staff’s working conditions and employment rights?

Some of these decisions will be taken by the UK, but if they involve cooperation agreements or trade deals with the EU, they must be agreed with the heads of government in other EU countries.

For many nursing staff, this is a time of uncertainty. There has already been a drop in the number of EEA nurses joining the register every month since the referendum, last June.

The RCN has identified some key issues for nursing, and will be working with other organisations to make sure that Brexit does not affect nursing staff and the health service negatively.

The college has produced a short briefing document on the most important issues for nursing.


About the author

Susan_Williams

Susan Williams is senior international adviser in policy and international development at the RCN 

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