The Government’s plans for a hard Brexit and a crackdown on immigration will worsen Britain’s shortage of nurses and midwives, with the already record shortfall set to increase by 20,000 by the year 2020, MPs and medical experts warn today [Sunday].
They point to new figures from the Open Britain campaign to warn that Brexit could “leave our NHS in intensive care” by making Britain a much less attractive place to work for nurses and midwives from the EU. They say that the figures are especially worrying, as they come after a Home Office report, which critics describe as advocating a “draconian” fall in immigration, was leaked.
It comes after Government figures showed that the NHS is suffering from its worst shortage of nurses ever, with the number of unfilled posts doubling in three years to 40,000. Furthermore, figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health Foundation have shown that in the months after the EU referendum, the number of EU nationals registering to work as nurses and midwives in the UK fell by 96%.
Open Britain warn that, if the drop in nurses from the EU applying to work in the NHS since the referendum continues, less than 300 a year would come to work in Britain. This compares to over 7,000 a year in the period before the referendum. Over the three years to 2020, this could mean that the total shortfall could increase by 20,337 compared to where it would have been if Britain had not voted to leave the European Union.
Commenting, Jon Skewes, Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications at the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“There are at least 1400 midwives from other EU countries working in our NHS who make a vital contribution to our short-staffed and under pressure maternity services. Recent figures show that that number of EU midwives practising in the UK has plummeted as uncertainty around their status drives them away. England already has a generation long shortage of midwives with a current shortfall of 3500 midwives and this is not sustainable.
“This is also about ensuring the future supply of the midwifery workforce and EU midwives are a vital part of that, and the Government must give them the right to remain in the UK.”
Heidi Alexander MP, leading supporter of Open Britain and former Shadow Secretary of State for Health, said:
“Brexit is in danger of leaving our NHS in intensive care. Hospitals the length and breadth of Britain are dependent on nurses and midwives who come from the EU to work in our National Health Service.
“We know that those numbers have fallen drastically since the referendum and it would not be surprising if the situation worsens because the Government ends up implementing its leaked draconian plans to slash immigration.
“Everyone who works in the NHS should be worried by the possible consequences of Brexit. It’s time for the Government to say loud and clear that they welcome European nationals who want to work in Britain. The alternative would be a disaster for our NHS, and for everyone who depends on it.”
Notes to editors:
According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, in the three years from March 2013 to March 2016, the number of EU nurses and midwives registering to work in the UK increased by 21,226, from 16,798 to 38,024. This represents an increase of 7,075 nurses and midwives per year. https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/other-publications/nmc-register-2013-2017.pdf
Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health Foundation have shown that in the months after the EU referendum, the number of EU nationals registering to work as nurses and midwives in the UK fell by 96%.https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jun/12/96-drop-in-eu-nurses-registering-to-work-in-britain-since-brexit-vote
If this 96% drop continues, based on previous figures, the number of EU nurses coming to work in Britain in the coming three years would be just 849, or 283 per year. So Brexit could be responsible for the shortfall in nurses increasing by 20,377 over the next three years.
Recent figures from the Royal College of Nursing have shown that the shortfall of nurses working in the NHS is now 40,000:http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/worst-nurse-shortage-ever-nhs-11118667
Leaked Government documents this week unveiled Ministers’ plans to crack down on immigration from the EU:https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/05/leaked-document-reveals-uk-brexit-plan-to-deter-eu-immigrants