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Brexit: 75% of primary care staff fear nursing numbers will plummet, survey finds


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
27 March 2019

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Three-quarters of primary care staff believe Brexit will have a negative impact on the number of nurses in the NHS, a new report by Healthcare Leader publisher Cogora has found.

Published today, the report found that in addition to the 75% who fear an adverse impact on nursing numbers, 71% of respondents believe Brexit will have detrimental consequences for the number of GPs in the health service.

The Primary Concerns 2018: The State of Primary Care report presents the findings of a survey of over 2,300 GP partners, salaried GPs, practice managers, nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare assistants.

BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said:

‘Membership of the EU and free movement has allowed talented doctors trained outside of the UK to come and work here, making a valuable contribution to the provision of high-quality care to patients.

‘Brexit will put an end to this. Not only will much-needed doctors find it more difficult to come and work in the UK, but many EU doctors already working here are feeling increasingly unwelcome since the Brexit vote.

Dr Kasaraneni added: ‘General practice is in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, and as this research finds, Brexit only threatens to make this worse.

Almost seven in 10 survey respondents, 67%, also believed Brexit would negatively affect the number of other primary care staff working in the NHS.

The findings paint a concerning picture of the state of primary care, as the report also found that 44% of staff are considering leaving their jobs in the next 12 months due to increased workload, pressure and demand.

A report commissioned and published last year by the Cavendish Coalition, which comprises 36 health and social care bodies, including NHS Employers, said the NHS could be short of an additional 5,000 to 10,000 nurses post-Brexit, on top of the current shortfall of over 40,000.

Responding to Cogora’s survey, co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition and chief executive of NHS Employer Danny Mortimer referred to the report findings of a feared exacerbation of the NHS workforce crisis post-Brexit as ‘worrying’.

Mr Mortimer said: ‘The health and social care sector is deeply reliant on talented colleagues from across Europe and the rest of the world, so it is deeply disheartening to see these projected workforce gaps at a time of rising demand for services.

He added: ‘We know we need to do more to strengthen staff retention and reduce turnover, but we are also reliant on decision-makers to ensure the UK remains an attractive prospect for our valued and talented colleagues from the EU and rest of the world.

‘We need to ensure the development of the future immigration system is responsive and agile, with as little red tape as possible, and that it uses public service value as a key factor in assessing skill levels and setting entry requirements rather than just salary.’

Medicine concerns

The report also found that sector staff were troubled by the thought that the availability of medicines might suffer post-Brexit.

Nearly two thirds, 64%, of primary care staff surveyed for the Primary Concerns report said they were worried about the availability of drugs post-Brexit, while 54% thought community pharmacies would stockpile medicines because of the uncertainty surrounding the UK/EU divorce process.

A nurse said: ‘As a health professional Brexit is becoming scary. I fear patients will not have access to healthcare or access to required medication in a timely manner.’

The UK had already begun experiencing shortages of certain medications at the end of 2018, when the survey was conducted. By January 2019, the NHS was experiencing shortages for around 80 medicines.

Last year, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asked pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of medicines to prepare for the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit, but said there was no need for providers to do the same.

Last month, Healthcare Leader revealed that the Department of Health and Social Care is planning to spend £11m to prevent medicine shortages in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

Many debates have shaped and changed Brexit talks since the respondents answered the survey in November and December last year, but uncertainly around Brexit still remains.

The UK was originally due to leave the European Union on 29 March. However, Prime Minister Theresa May recently managed to get an extension from Brussels after her deal was earlier this month voted down by Parliament for the second time.

The country might now leave on 12 April if May’s deal is once again rejected or on 22 May, if her deal is passed by Parliament when MPs vote on it for the third time.

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