Following the Brexit negotiations, it has been observed that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of EU nurses applying in the UK to practice. The figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) enumerate that only 46 nurses from EU have registered in the UK in April 2017. This means that the number of applications has dropped by 96% when compared to June 2016.
According to sources, 1304 nurses registered for practice in the UK in the month of July 2016. During September, the numbers saw an abrupt fall to about 344 nurses as an impact of the EU referendum. These figures indicate the number of applicants as per the register and do not mean the actual number of nurses employed by the NHS. However, they illustrate the significant quantum of personnel that is coming into the UK from the EU.
Apart from the Brexit negotiations, the major contributors to the decrease in the number of applicants from EU were considered to be the introduction of stringent English language tests for nurses coming from outside the UK. These tests were always a requirement for all of the nurses in the UK; however, these tests were made applicable for the EU nurses from January 2016 onwards.
Several dignitaries from health employment agencies have raised an alarm about the current shortages in nursing staff and a further increase in the severe gaps in the demand and recruitment of nurses in the UK.
The director of research and economics at the Health Foundation spells out that “The recruitment and retention of nurses is one of the biggest challenges faced by health and social care, with a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone. 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. Clearly, the action is needed to offset any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future”.
The chief executive and registrar of NMC, Jackie Smith, says that “Earlier this year we released figures which showed the number of EU trained nurses and midwives joining our register was reducing. At the same time, figures also showed the number of EU trained nurses and midwives leaving our register was increasing.
'Latest figures for April and May 2017 show that these trends have continued, however, it is still too early to say definitively that this is due to any one reason. It is more likely that a combination of factors is at play including the recent introduction of English language controls and the uncertainty about the effect of Brexit on individual nurses. As a result, we will be shortly undertaking research to help us better understand the reasons why these nurses and midwives are choosing to leave our register”.
Nurse Advisor, Marilyn Eveleigh expresses her apprehension by saying that “Nurses are an in-demand profession. There are many other countries that are calling to recruit nurses from abroad that are in greater stability than ours. 'Our EU nurses are uncertain of their future. At the moment because Brexit negotiations haven’t even started, they don’t know whether they will even be able to stay. The Government should make an immediate decision that all EU nurses working in the UK can remain and can carry on pushing their careers and supporting our health service”.
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