According to new figures, there has been a considerable and shocking decline in nurses registering to work in the UK since the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU, resulting in the vote for Brexit.
In April this year, 46 nurses from the EU joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), compared to the 1,304 nurses who joined in July last year.
Speaking on the findings the Health Foundation said the findings are “stark” and could act as a “wake-up call”.
However, the NMC pointed to the introduction of English language testing for nurses from the EU, brought in for the first time in January 2016 as likely to be a factor. Further, it seems that it normally takes a few months from being tested to making it on to the register, so officials believe this could have also played a role in the drop in numbers.
But the findings do present grave implications. In May of this year, the Royal College of Nursing found that one in nine posts in England was vacant, suggesting that the NHS was 40,000 nurses short.
Overall there are 650,000 nurses on the register.
Just over 36,000 of these have been trained in the EU, 5.5% of the total. Another 67,000 come from outside the EU with the rest from the UK.
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said the government was making a mess of things in relation to Brexit, where the agenda so far has been set by the EU with pushback from May’s government.
“Theresa May’s weak and unstable government has pushed NHS services to the brink, and it is patients who will pay the price.
“Our health service has always relied on the contribution of overseas workers, yet these staff are being forced out by this government’s neglect and disregard.
“The Tories are overseeing an unforgivable drain of talent out of our country, because of their chaotic attitude to the Brexit negotiations.”
Director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, Anita Charlesworth, said the findings were “stark”:
“Without EU nurses, it will be even harder for the NHS and other employers to find the staff they need to provide safe patient care.
“The findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and health service leaders.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said EU nurses played a “valued” role in the NHS and they would be a priority in Brexit negotiations.