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16.02.17

European NHS staff ‘frightened and anxious’ over Brexit uncertainty

Uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the European Union is causing “serious instability” within the NHS workforce, a leading official from the BMA has warned.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Westminster Health Forum, BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter emphasised that addressing the risks that Brexit posed to EU staff was essential to safeguarding and reassuring the NHS workforce.

Doubt surrounding the future working status of European staff and medical students is causing many to be “frightened and anxious”, something that could cause problems for the morale of the entire workforce.

In an Ipsos MORI survey undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons based on responses from 3,500 members, for example, more than half of staff listed low morale as the main issue they face at work – prompting concern of a ‘winter morale crisis’ in the NHS.  A separate survey also discovered that just under half of the public viewed the NHS as the biggest issue facing the country, narrowly beating Brexit.

Speaking at the conference yesterday, Dr Porter said: “Some of the medical workforce don’t have the permanent right to remain at the moment, and the BMA believe that in order to give security to our workforce, they should be given that right to remain, perhaps as a one-off measure and regardless of the current five-year thresholds.

“We also think it’s very important to address the serious instability expressed by people who have arrived here to qualify as medical students.”

In the past, the BMA has called for the government to prioritise the health service when it enters negotiations about the UK’s exit from the EU by granting all EU nationals working in the NHS permanent residency.

CEO of NHS England Simon Stevens has also echoed the same message of the importance of EU staff, whilst influential think tank IPPR has recommended granting European staff free citizenship.

But despite ongoing concerns, health secretary Jeremy Hunt recently appeased the NHS by guaranteeing that the government will continue to focus on improving the health and care system in its Brexit negotiations and deal “positively” with the consequences of leaving the EU.

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