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Brexit fears prompting EU nurses to desert UK, says RCN

PM needs to send clear signal that EU nationals welcome in NHS, says RCN

Caroline White

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Brexit fears are prompting EU nurses to desert the UK, says the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), after a Freedom of Information request revealed that nearly 3,000 EU nurses working in the UK left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in 2016.

After the referendum in June last year, EU nurses joining the NMC register fell to fewer than 200 a month. During the same period in 2015, the equivalent figure was nearly 800 a month.

A separate Freedom of Information request has revealed that 2,700 EU nurses already working in the UK left the NMC register in 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May will formally trigger Article 50 tomorrow, signalling the UK’s intention to leave the EU by 2019 and the start of complex negotiations on rights and trade.

Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said that uncertainty about the right to remain was behind the exodus of EU nurses.

“EU nationals working in the NHS need a clear signal from Theresa May that they are wanted and welcome to stay. Her failure to guarantee their right to remain is leaving soaring numbers heading for the door. Few are able to live with such uncertainty,” she said.

NHS hospitals and community services have increasingly relied on international recruitment to plug the gap in the home grown supply of British nurses. The number of EU nurses available trebled between 2011 and 2016, says the RCN.

Around one in three nurses is expected retire within the next 10 years and 24,000 nursing posts are currently unfilled in England. 

“The government is turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before. They cannot afford to lose the international workers the NHS relies on,” added Davies.

Meanwhile, the NMC has formally agreed to become the regulator of the new nursing associate role, following “thoughtful and thorough discussion” with the Department of Health.

“The Council recognised that there is strong support for the regulation of nursing associates and I have always maintained that the public would expect any role with nursing in the title to be regulated,” commented Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC.

“As an organisation we are well-equipped to regulate nursing associates and this is a positive endorsement of our progress,” she added.

Commenting on the announcement made at the weekend, health minister Philip Dunne said that robust professional regulation was important for delivering high quality care for patients.

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