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'We cannot afford to lose them': Government called to keep on EU nurses

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There are more than 60,000 EU nurses in the NHS There are more than 60,000 EU nurses in the NHS

The government should be concerned about post-Brexit uncertainty in its workers from the EU, according to a report from the Health Committee.

Brexit and health and social care – people and process was published on 28 April. It begins the Health Committee’s extended analysis on the UK’s departure from the European Union by assessing what preparations need to be made and what resources are available to the government.

More than 60,000 people from EU countries outside the UK work in the English NHS and around 90,000 in adult social care. Post-Brexit the committee said the UK will continue to need, and benefit from the presence of EU staff in health and social care.

The report said: ‘The impact of Brexit on the morale of R-EU (the remaining 27 members of the European Union) staff is concerning and the uncertainty they face is unwelcome. Difficulties in negotiating the process of applying for permanent residency in the UK and bureaucratic hurdles such as the requirement for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance all add to the concerns of EU workers and their families.

‘The government's plan for our post-Brexit future should both ensure that health and social care providers can retain and recruit the brightest and best from all parts of the globe and that the value of the contribution of lower paid health and social workers is recognised.

‘We wish to make clear the value that we as a committee place on the health and social care workforce from R-EU nations.’

Concerned about the NHS’s ability to retain ‘R-EU’ nurses after Brexit has been completed, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) welcomed the recommendations of the report.

Chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘Theresa May has been told by this cross-party group that failing to give EU nursing staff and others the right to stay will harm the NHS. The report leaves the Government with no place left to turn.

‘In this election, all political parties must reassure EU nursing staff working in the NHS and social care that they are needed, valued and welcome. The failure to do so means soaring numbers are heading for the door. We can ill-afford to lose their skills.’

In the report, the committee asks the government to put health concerns at ‘front and centre’ of negotiations and ratify the expertise of the negotiation team on health-centric issues. They asked the Department of Health to produce a comprehensive list of the issues that will require contingency planning depending in which way talks with the EU turn out.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt presented evidence for the report, but said the government would not be publishing its own thoughts on the implications of Brexit because ‘the publication of what might be called the worst-case scenario could itself have an impact on negotiations’.

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