Reassurance is a must for EU nurses and carers ahead of Brexit

More needs to be done to reassure thousands of nurses and carers about their right to remain in the UK once it leaves the European Union, the RCN has insisted

More needs to be done to reassure thousands of nurses and carers about their right to remain in the UK once it leaves the European Union, the RCN has insisted.

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Responding to the Home Affairs committee’s report on Brexit and immigration the college says if there is a cliff-edge in migration ‘it will be the NHS going over it’.

The report by a cross-party group of MPs raises serious questions about the Home Office’s ability to implement the systems and staffing required to deliver proposed Brexit changes and criticises the continued uncertainty over the status of EU nationals.


With little over a year to go until the UK withdraws from the EU, the committee has criticised the lack of a white paper setting out future immigration plans, as well as lack of clarity from the government.

It claims insufficient resources have been allocated and insufficient staff are in place to ensure a smooth registration process or cope with additional border requirements for people and goods.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘The government must be louder and clearer in reassuring the tens of thousands of EU nurses and carers working across the UK – not just on their right to stay, but how desperately the NHS and social care system needs them.

‘This report is right to say that simply extending the current immigration system will not address shortcomings – prioritising visas based on salary levels fails to recognise the benefits of international nurses to our society and economy.’

Written evidence submitted to the committee’s inquiry by the college states there are over 33,000 European Economic Area (EEA) nurses across the UK – more than the total number of nurses currently working in Wales.

It calls for:

  • Post-Brexit immigration arrangements should allow the UK to recruit nurses internationally for the medium-term
  • UK and devolved governments to develop a joint holistic long-term workforce plan to resolve training and retention issues
  • Urgently providing binding guarantees EEA nationals currently working in the health and care sector across the UK will be allowed to remain
  • A transition period of up to four years to allow freedom of movement to continue to allow European nurse recruitment to continue


It also highlights a Freedom of Information request to the Nursing and Midwifery Council which revealed a recorded drop of 90% in the number of EEA nurses joining the regulator’s register since June 2016’s referendum vote.

Ms Davies has called on the independent watchdog the Migration Advisory Committee, whose recommendation saw nursing placed on the shortage occupation list, to assess the impact of Brexit on public services.

Further information

Immigration system unprepared for Brexit

Written evidence submitted by the Royal College of Nursing

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