The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has published new research, based on data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which shows that at least 4,933 nurses based in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Dorset and South Wiltshire identify themselves as being from an EU country, as of March 2016.
The figures show nurses from across Europe are now working in NHS facilities in the South East region including includes 1,209 from Spain, 1,190 from Portugal and 583 from Italy. As not all staff choose to provide information on their nationality, it is likely that many more EU nurses are working here.
In addition, private sector health providers and care homes also rely on EU staff to deliver their services.
Separate figures obtained by the RCN from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there are currently over 33,000 EU trained nurses registered to work in the UK as a whole, with over 9,000 joining the register in 2015/16 – a 21% increase on 2014/15.
The figures come ahead of a House of Lords debate today (Thursday) on the impact of the vote to leave the EU on safe staffing levels in the NHS. The Lords will also be debating other risks to the NHS workforce such as the Government’s proposals to change student nurse funding.
The RCN is calling for the value of European nursing staff to be recognised and for the Government to protect their futures.
Patricia Marquis, RCN South East regional director, said: “So many employers in the South East are already struggling to recruit and so rely on recruiting from the EU and the rest of the world. In the uncertain times we are in, we need to ensure that EU nurses feel valued and welcome to stay. The Government needs to give some concrete assurances to the EU nurses and other health workers who are already here caring for patients.”
“A sustained lack of investment in training new nurses and years of pay restraint mean many experience nurses can’t afford to stay in the profession. Plans to change student funding and question marks over our future relationship with the EU place even greater pressure on the NHS.
“What’s needed is a sensible strategy for the future that recognises the critical contribution of overseas nurses as well as the pressing need to educate, recruit and retain a homegrown nursing workforce.
“We will do everything we can to support our European members through this time and would urge any members with concerns to contact us directly.”