The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for the value of European nursing staff to be recognised, and the government to safeguard their futures following its research that thousands of North West nurses’ jobs are at risk due to Brexit.
In March 2016, at least 1786 nurses working in the North West were from the European Union (EU), according to the RCN, which has based its data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
The figures show nurses from every part of Europe are now working in the North West region in CCGs and NHS Trusts, with Ireland (556), Spain (467), and Italy (212) the most common nationalities.
According to the RCN, with many North West Trusts struggling to recruit at home after a long pay freeze in the NHS, recruitment from the EU is now at its highest level for 20 years.
Separate figures obtained by the RCN from the NMC show there are currently over 33,000 EU trained nurses registered to work in the UK, with over 9000 joining the register in 2015-16; a 21% increase on 2014-15.
Estephanie Dunn, regional director of RCN North West said that a lack of concrete assurances from the government over the future of the EU nursing staff working in the UK ‘is making the situation worse’, and that it was vital that ‘valued colleagues across the North West region are supported to stay’.
She added how ‘a sustained lack of investment in training new nurses and years of pay restraint may mean many experienced nurses can’t afford to stay in the profession’.
Plans to change student funding and question marks over the future relationship with the EU were placing even greater pressure on the NHS, she said.
Ms Dunn stressed the need for ‘a sensible strategy for the future that recognises the critical contribution of overseas nurses’, and warned that regarding Brexit ‘allowing the uncertainty to carry on is an unjust way of treating people who are caring for our friends and families every single day’.
‘It may also force many people to consider leaving the UK, making it even harder for the NHS to provide safe patient care,’ she said.