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Key hospitals face major Brexit workforce threat

EU staff make up more than one in five doctors and nurses at some major hospitals

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Some key hospitals which are heavily reliant on staff who are EU nationals could face major workforce problems following Brexit, an analysis* by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests.

While across the whole of NHS England 5% of all staff are EU nationals, they make up more than 20% of doctors or nurses at eight NHS hospitals and more than 10% at 92 trusts.

Using data from NHS Digital, the Bureau calculated the percentage of doctors, nurses and midwives from the EU at every trust in England.

Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust, which runs two specialist heart and lung hospitals in the capital, has the highest proportion of both doctors and nurses from the EU - 28% of doctors and 27% of nurses. Other London trusts heavily reliant on EU workers include Moorfields Eye Hospital (21% of doctors), Great Ormond Street (20% of doctors), St George's University Hospitals (23% of nurses) and the Royal Free Foundation (21% of nurses).

The trust outside London with most doctors who are EU nationals (24%) is Royal Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridge. Other specialist hospitals also significantly reliant on EU doctors include Christie’s Cancer Hospital in Manchester (14%).

Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) has the highest proportion of EU nurses of any trust outside London, at 21%, and 108 of the 133 nurses who left the trust in the past year were EU nationals. Three out of the five trusts most dependent on EU nurses and health workers outside of London are in the East of England - West Hertfordshire Hospitals (19%), Royal Papworth Hospital (17%) and Mid Essex Hospital Services (17%).

Recruitment from the EU has “plummeted”, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers told the Bureau, warning that if numbers continue to fall then waiting times would go up dramatically.

“We would have to close capacity because we couldn’t man the beds or run the theatres. Costs would go up because we had to rely on agency staff and they are more expensive,” he said.

Latest figures from NHS improvement show that there are 11,500 vacancies for doctors in England – up from 10,800 the previous year.

Ten NHS trusts in England most reliant on EU doctors and the percentage of EU staff they employ:

  • Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust: 28%
  • Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: 24%
  • Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: 21%
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children NHS Foundation Trust: 20%
  • Isle of Wight NHS Trust: 20%
  • East London NHS Foundation Trust: 17%
  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: 17%
  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust: 16%
  • Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust: 16%
  • Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust: 16%

*Stockton B, Minto R, Jones A. Brexit risk: EU doctors and nurses make up more than a fifth of staff at some hospitals. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 23 October 2018

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