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NHS chief calls on Theresa May to reassure EU staff over Brexit

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens says hospitals could close if EU staff are forced to leave UK
Simon Stevens

The head of NHS England has called on the government to reassure foreign healthcare staff their jobs will be safe post-Brexit.

Laying out a blueprint for the health service once the UK has left the European Union, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the organisation will continue to rely on professionals from abroad, in spite of initiatives to increase the number of homegrown staff.

Mr Stevens called on new prime minister Theresa May to institute bold and broad reforms that include protecting the rights of Europeans working in hospitals and surgeries across the country.

Before taking office, Ms May said she would not guarantee that EU nationals living in the UK could remain post-Brexit. Mr Stevens warned that attempts to curb immigration could trigger the closure of hospitals and care homes, which have relied on the services of almost 130,000 European nurses, doctors and other staff

The head of NHS England has called on the government to reassure foreign healthcare staff their jobs will be safe post-Brexit.

Laying out a blueprint for the health service once the UK has left the European Union, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the organisation will continue to rely on professionals from abroad, in spite of initiatives to increase the number of homegrown staff.

Mr Stevens called on new prime minister Theresa May to institute ‘bold and broad reforms’ that include protecting the rights of Europeans working in hospitals and surgeries across the country. 

Before taking office, Ms May said she would not guarantee that EU nationals living in the UK could remain post-Brexit. Mr Stevens warned that attempts to curb immigration could trigger the closure of hospitals and care homes, which have relied on the services of almost 130,000 European nurses, doctors and other staff for years.

‘As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to do a better job training and looking after staff,' Mr Stevens wrote in the Daily Telegraph. ‘New apprenticeships can help many “left-behind” communities alienated from modern Britain. Even then, we’re still going to need committed professionals from abroad.

‘Australian-style immigration-points systems all admit nurses, doctors and other skilled experts. It should be uncontroversial to provide early reassurance to foreign NHS employees about their continued welcome.’

Responding to Mr Stevens’ comments, a government spokesman said: ‘NHS staff make a huge contribution to our country and the government has been clear it fully expects the legal rights of EU nationals already in the UK will be properly protected.’

Mr Stevens echoed concerns raised about mental health services by Ms May in her first speech as prime minister, calling mental health a ‘poor relation’ to other conditions.

NHS England has today published a plan outlining a major transformation programme for mental health care, including investment of £72 million over two years to better integrate physical and mental health services, and the expansion of psychological therapies.

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