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25.09.17

Workforce crisis deepens as 10,000 EU staff leave NHS post-Brexit

There were over 80,000 unfilled vacancies within the NHS between January and March 2017, with almost 10,000 EU workers leaving the health service following the Brexit referendum result.

Figures released by the government in April revealed that 5.5% of the NHS workforce is from the EU – including 9.8% of doctors and 7.4% of nurses, with numbers particularly concentrated in large cities and around the south east of England.

Of the staff that left the NHS in the 12 months following the referendum, around 7% were from the EU, amounting to around 9,800 workers.

The volume of nurses currently leaving the NMC register outstrips those joining it, with 20% more people leaving than joining in the last year, resulting in almost 5,000 fewer registrants than in 2013.

The number of initial registrations from the EU has also reduced by over 3,000 since the Brexit referendum. Earlier this year the NMC claimed that there was a “small yet significant” increase in the number of EU nurses opting to leave the register.

An NMC survey of EU nurses revealed that 32% of those leaving the register felt that Brexit had encouraged them to consider working outside of the UK.

In addition, British nurses and midwives are leaving the register, citing working conditions (including staffing levels) and poor pay as reasons for leaving the profession.

In a survey by the BMJ, 61% of doctors from the EU said that they were considering leaving the UK, with many saying that they felt unvalued and demoralised.

Last year universities saw a reduction in the number of applications to study medicine, continuing an annual trend which began in 2014.

Dr. Andrew Dearden, BMA treasurer, said: “It is important we continue to have a flexible immigration system that allows the NHS to recruit doctors from the EU, especially to areas of medicine and parts of the UK, with significant staff shortages, such as emergency medicine and general practice. Doctors working in the UK must have a right to remain, with their families, after Brexit.”

Last year health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, pledged to make the NHS ‘self-sufficient’ in doctors by 2025, to eliminate the reliance on overseas staff.

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