Unions move to reassure EU nurses

Royal College of Midwives says workers must continue to feel ‘welcome and valued’ following Brexit vote

European Union nurses working in the NHS must be ‘valued and reassured’ in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote, leading health figures have urged.

Unison’s Gail Adams. Photo: Barney Newman

Latest workforce figures reveal that more than one in 20 nurses working in the NHS in England come from the EU.

A total of 21,032 NHS nurses and health visitors come from EU countries – or 7% of the workforce.

Seeking assurances

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said EU staff must be made to feel valued, while the Royal College of Midwives said it would be seeking assurances on the future of the workforce.

Ms Adams said: ‘I’ve always placed great importance on the contribution that overseas nursing staff make to our NHS.

‘I will want to make sure we continue to ensure that they feel welcomed and valued.

‘They have been and remain a vital part of our workforce.’

In total, workers from other EU countries make up about 5% of the health service workforce.

‘Enormously reliant’

Brexit could have a ‘huge impact’ on these numbers, the head of health care at auditor KPMG has warned. 

Jason Parker said: ‘The economic uncertainty as a result of Brexit has a potentially huge impact on the NHS workforce.

‘The health sector is enormously reliant on workers from the European Economic Area. We will be advising our clients to look after and reassure these highly skilled and valued workers.’

Regulatory decisions

As a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, health regulators may have to change the way information about healthcare professionals is shared across European borders when concerns are raised about doctors or nurses.

At present, there are European directives on sharing disciplinary records and fitness to practise hearings.

Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘We will be working closely with the government and other partners to understand the implications of the UK's negotiated withdrawal from the EU on our work.

‘However, there will be no immediate impact on the NMC in terms of our role as the UK-wide regulator for nursing and midwifery.’


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