Protect EU workers in the NHS

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Cross-party politicians from the Open Britain campaign have backed calls from leading health professionals for the NHS to be protected from any post-Brexit immigration crackdown.

The Government have suggested that they will introduce a work permit scheme for EU nationals after we leave the EU; that they want to achieve a reduction in non-UK workers in the NHS; and they want to reduce net immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’. Achieving these ambitions would mean reducing the numbers of EU nationals working in the UK, including, potentially in the NHS – which currently stands at nearly 60,000 staff.

Open Britain’s Write to Remain campaign has already called for all EU nationals, including those working in the NHS, that are already here to have their rights protected.

Cross-party politicians from the Open Britain campaign are now backing calls from leading health professionals, including the Royal Colleges of Midwives, Psychiatrists and Physicians, to argue that the Government must go further and allow the NHS to continue to be able to freely hire European workers to fill posts in the years ahead after we officially leave the EU. The NHS should not be hamstrung in its hiring practices by a future work permits scheme; by salary or skills thresholds; or by overall quotas.

Commenting, Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said:

“For over three months now, the RCM has called on the Government to give clarity and a commitment to EU nationals working in the NHS that they will be allowed to stay living and working here when UK leaves the European Union.

“If hardworking midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff lose their EU working rights, our overstretched maternity services will also lose. The current midwifery shortage is already affecting the care women and their babies receive. 

“The RCM is today again calling on the Government to clarify the working situation for not only midwives, but for all hardworking NHS staff from other EU countries post Brexit.”

Commenting, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College Psychiatrists, said:

“Without non-UK doctors, nurses, and care workers, the NHS would not have even existed. This remains true today, tomorrow and in twenty years’ time. It's not a problem but an asset.”

Commenting, Professor Martin McKee CBE of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine & co-founder of HeatherIN, said:

“The NHS is facing the greatest pressures in its history, with record numbers of staff vacancies in many areas. This is the worst possible time to be deterring health workers from the rest of the EU but we now have clear evidence that this is happening. However, the risk to social care is even greater and this will simply make things even worse for the NHS.”

Commenting on Brexit in a recent speech, Professor Jane Dacre, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said:

“The potential consequences of Brexit have left many of us in medicine uneasy, as we feel we need all of our colleagues to help keep our patients safe.”

Commenting for the Open Britain campaign, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth MP, said:

“It is essential that the NHS continues to have access to the skills it needs, and that means we must be able to hire European medical staff even after we have left the EU.”

Commenting for the Open Britain campaign, former Conservative Health Minister, Anna Soubry MP, said:

“Our NHS wouldn’t be our NHS without the selfless work of thousands of EU nationals. Our NHS is not going to stop needing these people just because we’ve left the EU, so it’s vital NHS recruitment is not hampered by any new immigration system.”

Commenting for the Open Britain campaign, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb MP, said:

“Our NHS is our greatest national institution but it is powered by the work of thousands of international staff. We’ve needed them in the past, we need them today and we’ll need them in the future.”


  • The Government announced recently its intention to dramatically increase the number of NHS staff from the UK to decrease the reliance on overseas staff. In response, the BMA said “it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors. This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas.”
  • NHS England data shows the following breakdown of EEA nationals working in the NHS:


    Clinical Staff


    Nurses/Health Visitors


    Clinical Support Staff

    Infrastructure Support Staff










  • Data shows that individual non-EU countries provide far fewer workers, with the top two being India (17,952) and the Philippines (13,084).