Brexit to exacerbate NHS staffing crisis

A new report has warned that NHS nursing vacancies will top 51,000 by end of the Brexit transition period in 2021, the equivalent of 45 hospitals’ worth of nurses.

The Cavendish Coalition report is urging government to step up recruitment and training to mitigate the loss of EU staff, with recent NHS workforce figures revealing a growing gap in key staff, with 41,722 nursing roles unfilled in June (11.8 per cent of all positions).

Examining Brexit and the health and social care workforce in the UK, the report finds that a little over five per cent of the regulated nursing profession in the UK, as well as nine per cent of doctors, 16 per cent of dentists and five per cent of allied health professionals were from inside the EEA. Furthermore, the paper forecasts a potential shortfall of around 5,000 to 10,000 nurses in the NHS in England by 2021.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “These startling figures should be taken extremely seriously by those negotiating our departure from the EU. The health and social care sector is deeply reliant on talented colleagues from across Europe and the rest of the world so it is deeply disheartening to see these projected workforce gaps at a time of rising demand for services.

“The health and social care sector desperately wants to retain the EU nationals working in our services now and need the welcome process for registering for settled status to be honoured if no deal is agreed with the EU27. In parallel we need to ensure the development of the future immigration system is responsive and agile, with as little red tape as possible, and that it uses public service value as a key factor in assessing skill levels and setting entry requirements rather than just salary. This will help tackle the often misleading assumption that the salary paid to a migrant worker is the prime indication of the value of their work to the health and wealth of the UK.”

Commenting on the report, Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the health think tank the Nuffield Trust, said: “This is an extensive and credible report which should trouble everyone who cares about the future of health and care in the UK. Our own calculations have shown that with no further net migration or improvements domestically, social care could face a gap of up to 70,000 workers by 2025. The government’s reported plan to stem all immigration of less qualified people after Brexit, and the repeated ducking of tough choices on social care, make this worst case scenario look worryingly plausible.”

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