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Stevens calls for guaranteed residency for EU NHS workers

The NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, told the Health Select Committee today that EU nationals working for the NHS must be guaranteed the right to remain in the country.

He said: “It will be very important that those staff understand that they are an intrinsic and important part of teams in the National Health Service and they are welcome across the country.”

Stevens repeated comments he had made earlier that NHS workers from the EU should be granted indefinite leave to remain, and called on the government to be “more clear” about their status.

Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, backed Stevens’ statement, saying: “We agree that EU workers in the health and social care sectors should be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.”

However, Stevens, who said before the EU referendum that he was concerned about the financial impact of a vote to leave on the NHS, said that his attitude towards the EU now was “when there’s lemon, make lemonade”.

He said positive changes needed to the UK following its exit from the EU include increased recruitment of non-EU workers, the chance to adopt medicine procurement rules outside EU policy, and upgrading NHS infrastructure.

Stevens made his appearance before the committee on the same day as it published a major new report warning that the NHS lacks the funding and detailed planning to deliver the Five Year Forward View.

He said that he thought there was enough funding to implement the initial stages of the reforms, but that later years might be more challenging.

“We’ve got the kick-start to the Forward View we need,” he said. “However, it’s a U-shaped funding settlement, and when you get to the U-bend, times are considerably tougher.”

Stevens also admitted that the quality of the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) submitted to the NHS varied depending on whether there were already strong relationships between local organisations.

“There are some people frankly for whom this is the first time they’ve been really sharing their views together locally on how services need to change,” he said, “and so they’ve got a further path to tread.”

Stevens said NHS England would conduct an “informal ranking” of STPs by the end of the month and a full overview by the end of August.

In his comments on other pressing issues, he said the delayed childhood obesity strategy had been “more or less ready to roll” earlier in the year and should be “forthcoming sooner rather than later”.

He also said reforms in the strategy should be supported by a “regulatory backstop” instead of companies being left to self-regulate.

Stevens also said he supports proposals to abolish bursaries for nursing students, adding: “With other health disciplines, it has been perfectly successful. It’s going to be a positive health development but it will need to be tracked very carefully.”

(Image c. Owen Humphrys from PA Wire)

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