The Royal College of Nursing says nursing staff from the European Union must be encouraged to stay.
The Government must assure the tens of thousands of EU nurses and carers working across the UK that they have the right to stay as the date for exit from the EU gets closer. These staff must also be told how desperately the NHS and social care system needs them, the RCN says.
The comments were made in response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Brexit and immigration. The cross-party report highlights the devastating impact on the NHS of continued uncertainty for many healthcare workers.
The RCN agrees that simply extending the current immigration system will not address the problem as prioritising visas based on salary levels fails to recognise the benefits of international nurses to our society and economy.
Offical figures demonstrate a significant drop in the number of EU nurses coming to work within the health service, The Nursing and Midwifery Council saw a drop in applications from EU countries of over 96% in 2017 alone.
Janet Davies, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“In some hospitals, one in five NHS workers have EU passports – if there is a Brexit cliff-edge in migration, it will be the NHS going over it.
“The number of nurses coming from EU countries has plummeted in the last 18 months and, rather than redoubling her efforts to attract more, Theresa May told them they have even fewer rights if they arrive during the transition period.”
The RCN has called on the Government to consult on immigration arrangements for after Brexit while the Migration Advisory Committee assesses the impact on public services.
More than 60,000 EU citizens work in England’s NHS while the NHS already has at least 40,000 too few nurses with not enough homegrown nurses being trained to fill the gaps.