Brexit: RCN urges 4-year period of transition for EU nurses following government advisory migration report

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report shows sharp fall in number of nurses from the European Economic Area joining the nursing register from 1,300 individuals in July 2016 to just 71 nurses this July

Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report shows sharp fall in the number of nurses from the European Economic Area joining the nursing register from 1,300 in July 2016 to just 71 nurses this July

  • Figures show 95% drop in EU nurses coming to work in the UK 
  • MAC is an independent body that advises government on migration issues
  • RCN urges agreement with the EU in relation to free movement of workers

Picture: iStock

The RCN has called for a transition period of ‘up to four years’ immediately after Brexit as figures show a 95% fall in European nurses coming to work in the UK.

The college said such a move would allow time for the UK health and care sectors to continue to recruit internationally educated nurses.

It makes the point its response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the independent body which advises government on migration issues.

The submission also highlights figures obtained by the RCN showing the number of nurses joining the nursing register from the European economic area (EEA) – excluding the UK – fell from 1,304 individuals in July 2016 to 71 nurses this July.

Immigration advice on the Brexit effect 

The MAC report was commissioned by the government to advise on the effect of Brexit and on the UK’s immigration system.

In its response, the RCN states a transition period following Brexit is necessary in order to preserve the benefits of common EU standards for training and recognition of qualifications.

‘We would not recommend any radical changes to the non-European economic area immigration system until the UK’s settlement and future cooperation agreement with the EU is clear particularly in relation to free movement of workers,’ the college adds.

The college says that EEA health workforce has also become ‘more highly skilled, not less’.

European economic area nurses make up 5.5% of UK nursing register

In 2013, EEA nationals comprised 2.4% of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, by 2015 this had risen to 3.9% and the latest data for 2017 now shows they make up 5.5% of the register – or more than 38,000 individuals in total.

However, there has been a sharp fall off over the past year, which covered the period after the UK voted to leave in EU in June 2016 – the same month the NMC announced changes to its language tests for overseas nurses.

Additionally, there are fewer nurses from many non-EEA nationalities working in the UK than over a decade ago.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘The UK’s nursing workforce is in crisis thanks to years of pay restraint, poor workforce planning, and a failure to train enough nurses. The health and social care service relies on nurses from Europe and beyond to plug the gaps, and they make a vital, and valuable contribution to the UK.

 ‘Our evidence shows there has already been a huge reduction in EU nurses coming to the UK since the referendum. 

‘GIve EU colleagues right to remain in the UK’

‘It’s essential we give our EU colleagues the right to remain in the UK.  We also want to see a transition period immediately after Brexit of up to four years, during which the UK health and care sectors should be able to continue recruiting internationally. Nursing must also remain on the shortage occupation list for the near future.’

 In 2015 the RCN argued for the inclusion of adult nursing on the shortage occupation list.

The list is made up of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies and is regularly reviewed by the MAC.

The college states in its response that it hopes nursing will be able to come off the list in the long-term, but only on the proviso that the government invest more in developing the domestic supply of nurses.


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