Article 50 trigger ‘a stab in the back’ for EU nurses, says campaigner

A European Union nurse has urged that guaranteeing the working rights of European nurses be made a ‘top priority’ as the government triggers Article 50 today.
Joan Pons Laplana

A European Union (EU) nurse has urged that guaranteeing the working rights of European nurses be made a ‘top priority’ as the government triggers Article 50 today.

Spanish nurse Joan Pons Laplana at the EU citizens rally outside parliament in February. Picture: Barney Newman

Joan Pons Laplana, transformation nurse at James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth, who was born in Spain, believes the formal start of complex Brexit negotiations is ‘a stab in the back’ for EU nurses like himself.

Referring to RCN and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) statistics he told Nursing Standard: ‘Brexit is not only affecting nurses like me who are already here.

UK loses its appeal for EU nurses

‘Since the result of the referendum, applications from EU nurses wanting to come here have plummeted by 90%.

‘The UK is no longer the first choice for EU nurses looking for a job.

‘There are an estimated 57,000 EU nationals working for the NHS, including 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses but the uncertain future means many are starting to leave.

NHS needs its EU nurses

‘We are so short of nurses, the health service can’t afford to lose more.’

It is 17 years since Mr Pons Laplana moved from Spain to England, where he has made a home and raised a family.

He said: ‘Today the prime minister will trigger Article 50. I now live in a country that officially does not have my interests at heart.

‘Yesterday, I called this country “home”, which is about respect, about belonging, about feeling safe and valued, about being 100% welcome.


‘But today, I don’t feel welcome, I’ve been stabbed in the back, lied to and lied about.

‘From today, it’s just a place I live in. I’m only passing through.’

The importance of EU nurses to the NHS has been repeatedly highlighted since the referendum on 23 June last year.

Sharp decline in nurse numbers

Earlier this week the RCN published figures showing both a sharp fall in the supply of new EU nurses and the departure of 2,700 European nurses from the NMC register.

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 with the same period the year before.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘EU nationals working in the NHS need a clear signal from Theresa May that they are wanted and they are 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.’

Top priority

At the Chief Nursing Officer for England Summit earlier this month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said retaining EU nurses in the NHS was a ‘top priority’.

Asked what reassurance he could offer the thousands of NHS nursing staff from the EU, he replied: ‘We’ve got 22,000 nurses from the EU, they do an absolutely fantastic job, they are an integral part of our nursing workforce. We want them to stay, we want them to stay forever.

‘We are confident that we’ll be able to negotiate an agreement to do that as part of the Brexit process, and it is one of our absolute top priorities to make sure we do so.’

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