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Nursing unions in plea to secure rights of 'vital' EU nationals

RCN and Unison have urged the government to secure the rights of European Union nationals working in the NHS, amid warnings that the service faces an unprecedented staffing crisis.

RCN and Unison have urged the government to secure the rights of European Union nationals working in the NHS, amid warnings that the service faces an unprecedented staffing crisis

EU jigsaw
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A 'vital part' of the health and social care system could be lost if EU workers are made to feel unwelcome after Brexit, representative bodies have cautioned.

The plea follows figures published last month showing that the number of EU nationals joining the NHS in England fell by almost one sixth since the Brexit vote.

Some 12,751 doctors, nurses and other staff were recruited to NHS services across England in the year to June 2017 – down from 15,476 (17%) in the previous 12 months.

Unaffordable loss

EU citizens make up about 8% of all NHS nurses and health visitors in England, and 10% of doctors.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the health service 'cannot afford' to lose nurses from the continent.

She added: 'EU nurses are a vital part of the UK's health and social care system but less of them are registering to work in the NHS since Brexit.

'With 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone after years of poor workforce planning, we cannot afford to lose EU nurses too.

'The government must make it clear that EU nationals are welcome and valued during Brexit negotiations, otherwise it risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from across Europe.'

Post-Brexit

Nearly 10,000 EU nationals have left the service since the vote to leave last June – up more than one fifth (22%) on the previous year.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said it was essential that the government grant the right to stay for EU nationals on whom the NHS has become so reliant.

She said: 'It's no wonder numbers have taken such a dive.

'Much of the political rhetoric since Brexit has made European citizens feel decidedly unwelcome.

'The promise of a lengthy wait and an equally long paper trail for those who want to apply to remain is hardly an encouragement to stay.

'Removing the training bursary and tough new language tests are also deterring many UK and international health workers from entering the English nursing profession.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Overseas workers play a crucial role in our NHS and we want to see their excellent work continue long after the UK leaves the EU.'


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