The number of European nurses registering to work in the UK has plummeted by 96 per cent since the EU referendum last June, prompting critics to warn Brexit has caused an “unforgivable drain of talent” in the health sector.
Just 46 nurses from EU countries registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in April 2017, compared with 1,304 in July 2016, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Health Foundation.
The monthly statistics show the number of nurses registering with the NMC peaked in July 2016 at 1,304, before undergoing a steep decline — falling to just 244 in the two months until September, and down to 46 by April 2017.
The decline has raised alarm among experts, who warned the figures should be a “wake-up call” to politicians.
Health service leaders also warned of the urgency to offset any further loss in EU nursing staff in the near future.
The UK has repeatedly used international recruitment as a stop-gap measure to fill staffing shortages. Since 2008, the majority of international nurses registering in the UK have come from within the EU.
“The recruitment and retention of nurses is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care, with a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone,” said Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation.
“Without EU nurses, it will be even harder for the NHS and other employers to find the staff they need to provide safe patient care.
“The findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and health service leaders. Clearly action is needed to offset any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future.”
Ms Charlesworth added that the decline in EU nurses comes at a time when there is already a chronic shortage of nurses in the UK, due to long-term failings in workforce planning and the scrapping of training bursaries.
“Clearly action is needed to offset any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future,” she said. “But the overall shortage of 30,000 nurses is not a shortage caused by the Brexit vote.
“The chronic shortage of nurses is the result of years of short-term planning and cuts to training places. A sustainable, long-term approach to workforce planning is desperately needed.”
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, accused the Tories of overseeing an “unforgivable drain of talent” which he warned patients would “pay the price” for.
“Theresa May’s weak and unstable government has pushed NHS services to the brink and it is patients who will pay the price,” Mr Ashworth said.
“Our health service has always relied on the contribution of overseas workers, yet these staff are being forced out by this Government’s neglect and disregard. The Tories are overseeing an unforgivable drain of talent out of our country because of their chaotic attitude to the Brexit negotiations.”
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/20 26 June 2017
A festival-goer sleeps outside their tent at the end of the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
2/20 26 June 2017
Canadian Captain Megan Couto (C) leading out troops of the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Wellington Barracks heading for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London. Media reports state that Megan Couto, will be at the head of some 40 Canadian soldiers along with the Royal Canadian Artillery Band at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace becoming the first female soldier in history to become Captain of the Guard. Canadian soldiers are serving as the Queen's Guard as sentries at Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle until 03 July 2017. Queen Elizabeth II invited Canada to send troops take part in the ceremonial duties in 2017 marking 150 years since Canadian Confederation
3/20 26 June 2017
Residents leave their home on the Taplow Block on the Chalcots Estate on June 26, 2017 in London, England. Residents of the Chalcots Estate have been urged to leave their homes due to fire safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Four of the five Chalcots Estate towers in Camden, North London, are being evacuated after they were found to have similar cladding to that on Grenfell, attributed to contributing to the rapid spread of the blaze last week that killed at least 79 people
4/20 25 June 2017
Police officers on Romford Road in Forest Gate, east London, as people protest over the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa, who died on June 21 six days after he was stopped in a car by Metropolitan Police officers in Woodcocks, Beckton, in Newham, east London
5/20 24 June 2017
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses revellers from the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival
6/20 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
7/20 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
8/20 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
9/20 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
10/20 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
20/20 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
He urged the Government to prioritise the NHS in Brexit negotiations, and immediately guarantee the rights of EU nationals.
“The truth is that Theresa May has tried to use NHS staff as bargaining chips in her negotiations with Brussels,” he said. “The NHS should be a priority in the Brexit negotiations and the Government should immediately guarantee the rights of EU staff who are working here in our health and care service.”
The new figures came after it emerged in March that almost 2,700 EU nurses handed in their resignation letters in 2016, compared to 1,600 in 2014 – a jump of 68 per cent, according to Freedom of Information requests filed by the Liberal Democrats.
The following month, a leaked internal document from the Department of Health claimed Britain should prepare for a possible shortage of up to 42,000 nurses after Brexit.
It warned that if nurses from EU and non-EU countries stop coming to the UK in 2019, there would be a nursing staff shortage of between 26,000 and 42,000 within six years.Reuse content