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Thousands of EU nurses and midwives leave NHS because of Brexit

Published on 09/05/19 at 02:18pm

Nearly 5,000 EU nurses and midwifes have left the NHS over the past two years.

The number of EU nationals working as nurses and midwifes has fallen from a peak of 38,024 in March 2017 to 33,035 in 2019.

Strikingly, more than half (51%) of EU nurses and midwifes who left the NHS said Brexit was a reason for them considering work outside the UK.

Meanwhile a third of all nurses who left the NHS said pressure, stress and poor mental health were the top reason for leaving the NHS.

Furthermore 20% of those trained in the UK said they had become disillusioned about the quality of care given to patients.

Nevertheless, the overall number of nurses and midwifes working for the NHS was at an all-time high as 8000 more nurses and midwifes were registered compared to the same time last year.

The numbers were boosted by a 126% increase in the number of nurses and midwives from outside the EU registering to work in the UK. In total the number of non-EU nurses and midwives increased from 2,720 last year to 6,157 in 2019.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “Nurses, midwives and nursing associates make an enormous contribution to the health and wellbeing of millions of people each year so I’m delighted to see such an increase in those joining our register.

“It’s encouraging to know this is being driven by both UK trained and overseas professionals. It’s clear the changes we’ve introduced – to make it more straightforward for those people with the right skills and knowledge to come and work here from abroad – are making a real difference.”

“However, we only have to look at the well documented concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates that exist right across health and social care to know there’s a long way to go before we have all the people we need to ensure the best and safest care for everyone.”

“And while there has been a drop in the number of people leaving the register, our survey fires yet another warning shot – that the pressures nurses and midwives face are real and must be taken seriously if we are to properly attract, support and retain the workforce that we need now, and for the future.”

Responding to new data on the UK nursing workforce published in the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register today (Wednesday 8 May), Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive and General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said:

“Any boost to the register is good news but looking behind the headlines raises further concerns.

“Politicians should be alarmed by the finding that almost one in three quit nursing because of intolerable pressure. They have abused the goodwill of nurses for too long and that dam is starting to burst.

“The modest increases are not of the scale or kind needed to meet demand and the workforce crisis isn’t abating. It is inappropriate to rely on a steady stream of nurses from beyond the EU, which seems to be the plan in England in particular.

“The official figures reveal a big net loss in European nurses, with fears over Brexit cited as the main reason for leaving and partly driving efforts to recruit from even further afield.

“Every country of the UK needs a serious strategy for the domestic workforce to recruit, train and retain a new generation of nurses and have accountability set in law.”

Louis Goss

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