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25.08.16

EU workers should get ‘free citizenship’ to avoid NHS collapse

The NHS relies on EU national workers, who should all be offered free British citizenship to encourage them to stay in the country, think tank IPPR has said.

The status of EU nationals in the UK has been thrown into uncertainty following the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June.

Around 55,000 EU nationals work for the NHS, making up 5% of its workforce, including 10% of registered doctors.

The IPPR’s report says: “Without [EU national staff], the NHS would collapse. It is critical to public health that these workers do not seek jobs elsewhere.”

It urges the government to make a “particularly generous citizenship offer” to EU nationals who work for the NHS or as locums in the NHS system.

This should include waiving the £1,200 fee for citizenship, as well as the English language and ‘life in the UK’ tests and residency requirements.

The IPPR said that NHS regional and mental health trusts must play a key role in delivering the changes by writing to EU staff to inform them of their eligibility.

The IPPR goes one step further than NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, who told the Health Select Committee in July that NHS workers with EU citizenship should be granted an automatic right to remain in the country. The think tank said this should still be available as an option for NHS workers who choose not to take up the free citizenship.

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Allowing any ambiguity about our NHS workforce to continue is a completely unfair way of treating people who are caring for our friends and families every single day.

“The UK must send a clear message that the people who keep its health service going will be treated fairly. Without a guarantee that EU nationals working in the NHS can remain in this country it will be much harder to retain and recruit staff from the EU, and patient care will suffer as a result.”

(Image c. Stefan Rousseau from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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