Editorial

Brexit: what are the implications for nurses?

The nursing workforce and employment rights are just some of the issues that must be addressed
Graham Scott

The referendum result is in and appears to have caught the nation by surprise. Whatever the fallout from voters decision to leave the EU, the implications for nursing are likely to be widespread and profound and could take years to resolve.

Top of the list is the nursing workforce itself, which is being propped up by 26,000 registered nurses from the EU, not to mention the thousands more in healthcare support roles in hospitals and care homes.

As nursing workforce expert James Buchan has noted in Nursing Standard , more nurses from Romania, Spain, Italy and Portugal joined the UK nursing register in 2015-16 than from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The response must be twofold. First we must reach

The referendum result is in and appears to have caught the nation by surprise. Whatever the fallout from voters’ decision to leave the EU, the implications for nursing are likely to be widespread and profound – and could take years to resolve.

Top of the list is the nursing workforce itself, which is being propped up by 26,000 registered nurses from the EU, not to mention the thousands more in healthcare support roles in hospitals and care homes.

As nursing workforce expert James Buchan has noted in Nursing Standard, more nurses from Romania, Spain, Italy and Portugal joined the UK nursing register in 2015-16 than from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The response must be twofold. First we must reach out to those staff who have been imported in large numbers over recent years and must now be feeling unwelcome and unwanted. They must be given assurances by the government over their right to remain, and for how long.

Then we need to start training enough staff of our own so that we are less reliant on immigration in the first place. Surely that must mean continuing to give nursing students a bursary and paying their fees, for the time being at least.

The EU has also had an important impact on health and safety in the workplace, with UK laws on working hours, manual handling and standards for medical devices all emanating from European directives or similar edicts.

All such legislation will remain in place for the time being, but the referendum result means they can now be repealed on a whim by the government of the day.

Brexit would only deepen NHS staffing crisis

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