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07.10.16

Government urged to end ‘ambiguity’ over future of NHS overseas staff

NHS professional bodies have urged the government to preserve the role of overseas staff in the NHS following the EU referendum.

The government has given no firm guarantee on the rights of overseas workers, despite the IPPR warning that the NHS would “collapse” without them and recommending that they be given free British citizenship.

According to NHS Digital data, around one in five nurses recruited in England in 2015-16 were non-British EU nationals, an increase from one in 14 in 2011-12. In addition, one in 10 midwives were from the EU compared to one in 20 four years previously.

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nurses trained in other countries have contributed to the NHS since its inception.

“The health service would not cope without their contribution, and with the future supply of nurses looking uncertain this situation will not change any time soon. Allowing the ambiguity about the future of healthcare staff from the EU to continue is completely unfair.”

Kinnair argued that the government must act now and develop a coherent and sustainable workforce strategy, which recognises the “critical contribution of overseas nurses as well as the pressing need to educate, recruit and retain a domestic nursing workforce in the UK”.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference this week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to make the NHS “self-sufficient” in doctors.

The Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh subsequently issued a statement saying that overseas doctors “make an invaluable contribution” to the NHS and should be a “central part” of workforce planning.

In a joint letter in the Guardian, Clare Marx and Professor Jane Dacre, the presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians, said abandoning free movement of doctors was “a major risk to the success of the NHS”.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association, said: “If the government’s plan is to train more UK doctors and stop recruiting from abroad, it will not address the staff shortages in any way. There simply won’t be enough doctors for the number of patients walking through our hospital and GP surgery doors.”

The chair of the UK Medical Students’ Association, Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, added that creating a self-sufficient medical workforce would be “bad for medicine and bad for patient care”.

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