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Exclusive: More than half of trusts facing worst nurse shortages lose EU staff as Brexit looms

Eleven out of 20 NHS trusts identifed as most at risk of post-Brexit nursing shortage lose EU nurses in the past year.
Ismalia De Sousa

More than half of NHS trusts in England identified as being most vulnerable to workforce problems post-Brexit have seen falls in EU nurse numbers.

Last year, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) gave a stark warning about impending risks to the UKs nursing workforce, post-Brexit.

New figures obtained by Nursing Standard under freedom of information law reveal 11 of the 20 trusts identified by the IES as most at risk because of their increasing ageing populations and extent of dependence on EU staff lost EU nurses between April 2016-17.

Eight of the trusts reported increases in EU nurse numbers, and one did not return the information.

Registrations down

The number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK dropped

More than half of NHS trusts in England identified as being most vulnerable to workforce problems post-Brexit have seen falls in EU nurse numbers.


Ismalia De Sousa says EU nurses now feel wary about coming to the UK Photo: David Gee

Last year, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) gave a stark warning about impending risks to the UK’s nursing workforce, post-Brexit. 

New figures obtained by Nursing Standard under freedom of information law reveal 11 of the 20 trusts identified by the IES as most at risk – because of their increasing ageing populations and extent of dependence on EU staff – lost EU nurses between April 2016-17.

Eight of the trusts reported increases in EU nurse numbers, and one did not return the information.

Registrations down

The number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK dropped by 96% in the past year, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Bedford Hospital NHS Trust, identified by the IES as an at-risk trust, lost 45 EU nurses. EU nurse numbers at Bedford fell from 132 last April to 87 this February.

The trust said it recruited just 15 nurses from the EU during the same 10-month period, compared with 80 nurses between April 2015 and February 2016.

Acting director of nursing and patient services Tracey Brigstock said: ‘As a trust we are concerned about the impact Brexit may have on our workforce.

‘We will continue our recruitment and retention plans for all staff groups, regardless of where they are from.’

The trust said campaigns in Europe had recruited 21 nurses since the end of 2016, and another 20 planned to start in the autumn.

'Talent being driven out'

London clinical nurse specialist in stroke Ismalia De Sousa, who came from Portugal in 2009, said she was unsurprised by the new figures.

Ms De Sousa said: ‘There is a feeling of uncertainty for EU nurses, whether they work or want to work in the UK. The government is driving that talent and passion away.

‘A decision should have been made a long time ago to secure the rights of EU healthcare professionals.’

Crisis in social care

IES senior research fellow Rachel Marangozov said: ‘These figures are worrying, although it's possibly too early to indicate a trend.

‘There is a parallel crisis going on in social care, which draws on the same nursing workforce.'

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin said the Brexit vote had left EU nurses feeling unvalued, unwelcome and ‘facing severe insecurity’ about the future.

‘Theresa May needs to secure EU nurses’ right to remain if we are to have the staffing levels we need to provide safe patient care.’

NHS trusts in England most vulnerable to future nurse shortages and rapid population growth 

  1. Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 
  2. Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
  3. Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  4. Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  5. Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
  6. West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  7. Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 
  8. Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust 
  9. Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust 
  10. Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust 
  11. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust
  12. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust 
  13. Whittington Hospital NHS Trust
  14. Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  15. Bedford Hospital NHS Trust
  16. Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
  17. Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  18. Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
  19. Weston Area Health NHS Trust
  20. London North West Healthcare NHS Trust

Source: IES analysis of HSCIC workforce data and ONS population projections

 

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