Number of EU nurses applying to work in UK down by 96 per cent

The number of nurses from European Union countries registering to practice in the UK has plummeted by 96 per cent since the Brexit referendum, new figures have revealed.

The number of EU nurses registered to work in the UK in April was just 46.
The number of EU nurses registered to work in the UK in April was just 46.

Just 46 nurses from the EU registered in April - down from 1,304 in July last year, just weeks after the Brexit vote. The figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to the Nursing and Midwifery Council by the Health Foundation, showed that by September - two months after the vote - the number of new registrants had fallen to 344.

The organisation said that the UK has repeatedly used international recruitment as a stop gap measure to fill staffing shortages, and since 2008 the majority of international nurses registering in the UK have come from within the EU.

Many EU citizens are concerned as to whether they will be allowed to remain in the UK after Britain leaves Europe.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation said: “The recruitment and retention of nurses is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care.

“The drop in EU nurses registering to work in the UK could not be more stark – just 46 registered to work in the UK in April. 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.”

She added: “Clearly action is needed to offset any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future. 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.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman insisted that EU nurses played a “valued” role in the NHS and said they would be a priority in Brexit negotiations.

The Scottish Government said the figures showed the "damage" done to the NHS by Brexit.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Our health service has a dedicated and diverse workforce. This shows the real damage that Brexit already poses to our NHS and demonstrates this is why it is vital that Scotland remains in the single market.

“Nurses have a vital role to play in achieving our vision for health and social care in Scotland."

SNP MSP Clare Haughey, who is deputy convener of Holyrood’s Health and Sport committee and a registered mental health nurse, said: “These figures are absolutely staggering – and they follow warnings from doctors’ leaders about the dangers Brexit poses to the NHS.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “The SNP is not in a position to lecture anyone on nursing levels. Its repeated failure to plan for the future has left wards across the country struggling."

These figures are released ahead of a Health Foundation report due to be published later this year looking at the health and social care workforce.