The NHS could be short of more than 50,000 nurses post-Brexit, a group of healthcare organisations have warned.
A report commissioned by the Cavendish Coalition, which comprises 36 health and social care bodies including NHS Employers, predicted that the NHS could face a deficit of between 5,000 and 10,000 nurses after Brexit. This, the coalition said, will be on top of the current 41,722 vacant posts.
‘Sector deeply reliant’ on EEA workforce
NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said the health and social care sector is ‘deeply’ reliant on workers from both Europe and the rest of the world.
As of March 2018, 5% of nurses and midwives on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, (35,115 out of 690,278), are from the European Economic Area (EEA).
The NMC estimated that 5,580 fewer EU nurses (805 against 6,382) joined the register between April 2017 and March 2018 compared to the previous year.
Mr Mortimer said: ‘It’s deeply disheartening to see these projected workforce gaps at a time of rising demand for services.
‘The health and social care sector desperately wants to retain the EU nationals working in our services now and need the welcome process for registering for settled status to be honoured if no deal is agreed with the EU27.’
According to the coalition report, Brexit could also have ‘significant implications’ for adult social care, as the sector’s reliance on a relatively low-paid workforce means it would be ‘cut off by a salary threshold of £30,000 and no special allowance’.
Between 2011 and 2016, the number of registered EEA nurses in the sector increased by 68%, 30,600, reaching 42,000 in 2017 – according to the NMC. The figures also showed that the turnover rate for these positions was 32%, with 11,500 leaving the NHS service, in 2017/18.
Mr Mortimer commented: ‘We need to ensure that 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.’
‘This will help tackle the often misleading assumption that the salary paid to a migrant worker is the prime indication of the value of their work to the health and wealth of the UK.’