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Brexit: nurses vote with their feet

THE NHS IS one of the first organisations to feel the cold wind of Brexit breezing through its corridors.

Last July, 1,304 nurses from the EU registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) – the first, necessary, step towards working in the UK. This April, there were just 46 – that’s a drop of 96%.

Some observers are trying to sound alarm bells, alleging that Brexit is scaring nurses from EU member states away from any idea of working in the UK. On the other hand, the NMC itself is pointing out that a new English language test has recently been brought in, and this may have forced numbers down. The test may well be a factor, but English is spoken widely across Europe and the test is unlikely to be responsible for such a sharp drop.

A reduction in the number of EU nurses wanting to work in the UK would be bad news for the NHS, as the UK itself does not seem to be able to produce as many nurses as the NHS needs: already, one in nine nursing posts is vacant. The Government has played down the significance of the vacancies, arguing that more nurses are employed than ever before.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned that the Government was making a mess of things. “Theresa May’s weak and unstable government has pushed NHS services to the brink, and it is patients who will pay the price,” he 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.”

The news about nurses from EU countries comes six months after the RCN revealed that the Migration Advisory Committee was denying nurses the chance to work in the UK despite ongoing shortages of qualified UK nurses.

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