Nurses call for a referendum on final Brexit deal

Brexit is affecting the nursing workforce and impacts on the future supply of medicines, public health and nursing regulation.

Ian Snug
13 December 2018
referendum on final Brexit deal

Registered Nurses throughout the UK haved called for a final peoples vote on the Brexit arrangement.

A group of RCN members from across the UK has met MPs and Peers to share their experiences of working in the NHS since the Brexit vote. They highlighted their concerns on how Brexit is affecting the nursing workforce and its impact on the future supply of medicines, public health and nursing regulation.


Theatre nurse Anna Green works in Portsmouth and is originally from Poland. She said: “We are struggling to recruit enough health care staff as it is so losing a significant number of EU nurses will have an impact on the quality of care. The uncertainty around Brexit is very unsettling for family life and planning for the future.”

Earlier this year, members debated the implications of Brexit at RCN Congress and voted to campaign for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The parliamentary drop-in event, called Nursing at Brexit Point, followed five days of debate in the House of Commons on the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Framework for relations negotiated by the Government with the European Union.

’Chaos’ in Parliament.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting RCN Chief Executive, said: “Amid the chaos of the last few days in Parliament, nursing staff have delivered a strong message to MPs on how Brexit will affect them and most importantly the safety of the patients they care for.”


Following the Brexit referendum in 2016, the RCN highlighted five key priorities to the UK Government to ensure that Brexit wouldn’t harm nursing and health care services. These included:

  • safeguarding the health and social care workforce by having a strategy that includes social rights for EU nursing staff and allows for future migration
  • preserving regulations governing staff and medicines, including a continuation of EU education standards which set minimum training hours for student nurses
  • addressing public health collaboratively, particularly on communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance
  • protecting decent working conditions, so that employment rights set at EU level still apply to nursing staff in the UK
  • maintaining important opportunities for collaboration across Europe on research and between nursing organisations to share and learn.

In October, the RCN said there had been “little or no progress” on all five of the areas.

Brexit poses an ‘immediate risk’.

The RCN alongside the British Medical Association have warned that Brexit poses an immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective health care, as well as collective efforts to improve public health.

Donna added: “Uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU is putting health care in jeopardy. The final Brexit deal will affect generations now and in the future.


“Citizens and nursing staff must have the opportunity to make an informed choice. The solution is a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.”

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