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Thousands of EU staffers have left NHS since 2016, says Lib Dems

Figures come from information provided by 50 NHS hospital trusts

NHS

Around 11,600 workers from EU countries – including 4,783 nurses – have left the NHS since the Brexit referendum, according to the Liberal Democrats party.

The figures come from Freedom of Information requests to 50 NHS hospital trusts and lend credence to the argument that the 2016 vote has exacerbated NHS staffing shortages – currently estimated to number more than 100,000 including 40,000 nursing positions.

There’s been some discussion whether Brexit or the NHS will be the bigger battleground in the December election, but with the new figures the Lib Dems have tried to bring the close connection between the two into stark relief, particularly as 85 trusts did not respond to the data request.

The Lib Dems said the number of EU leavers increased by 23% from 3,504 in 2015 to 4,335 in 2017, before dipping back to 4,013 last year.

For 2019 so far there have been more than 3,250 departures of EU nationals, with trusts in the south of England – London North West, Oxford University Hospitals and University Hospitals Bristol – particularly affected.

The figures only cover those who have departed since 2016, and don’t take into account EU nationals who may have decided not to take up NHS positions in the UK as a result of the increasingly acrimonious Brexit process.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NWC) said in April the number of nurses arriving from the EU dropped 87% from 6,382 in 2016-17 to 805 in 2017-18.

Another NWC survey – compiled by Ipsos Mori – suggested that more than half (51%) of European Economic Area (EEA) nurses and midwives allowing their NHS registration to lapse cited Brexit as a reason, with two thirds saying they were leaving the UK.

There was however an increase in the number of nurses and midwives joining the register from outside the EU, up around 1,000 between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The NHS has tens of thousands of employees from the EU, with figures from March based on self-reported nationality suggesting that EU nationals number around 65,000 employees, or 5.5% of the total NHS workforce. Out of these, 31,000 were doctors or nurses.

There has also been a drop in the UK nationals applying for student nursing places since a bursary was scrapped in 2016, according to Full Fact, a charity set up to check the veracity of statements made by the political parties during election campaigning.

The announcement of the figures came as the Conservatives pledged to recruit 50,000 more nurses and reinstate the bursary in their campaign manifesto. Visas for nurses will also be halved in cost and fast-tracked under new immigration plans announced earlier this month.

Labour is trumpeting plans for a 5% pay boost to public sector workers, equivalent to an extra £1,200 a year for newly-qualified nurses, invest £1bn a year in nurse education, reinstate the nurse bursary, recruit 4,500 more health visitors and school nurses, and increase the number of GP training placers by 1,500 to 5,000.

The Lib Dems’ manifesto says they would increase income tax by 1p and ring-fence the £7bn raised for spending on the NHS and social care, while investing £11bn in mental health and reform the Health and Social Care Act to end the ‘automatic tendering of services’.

Against that backdrop of promises, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that more than a million patients are set to face huge waits in emergency departments as NHS braces for its ‘worst-ever’ winter, with pressures on services set to skyrocket in the coming months.

“A&E wait times are the worst since modern records began, trolley waits the highest they’ve ever been outside of winter, and 4.42 million people waiting for routine operations – the highest number in NHS history,” commented BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul last week.

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th November 2019

From: Healthcare

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