Thousands of London nurses could be affected by Brexit

The RCN is calling for the Government to protect European colleagues' futures

21 Jul 2016

London’s health recruitment crisis could get worse, the Royal College of Nursing has warned, with thousands of nurses currently working in London potentially affected by changes to immigration rules after Britain leaves the EU.

The RCN has published new figures, obtained from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which show that at least 7879 London nurses are from the EU, 13% of London’s current nursing workforce as at March 2016.

  • The figures show nurses from every part of Europe now working in London, with Spain (1486), Portugal (1060) and Ireland (2411) the most common nationalities.
  • European staff are an essential part of the nursing workforce in every part of London with 2133 working in West London, 2620 working in South London and 3126 working in North and East London.
  • With many London trusts struggling to recruit at home after a long pay freeze in the NHS, the RCN estimates that recruitment from the EU is now at its highest level for twenty years. 

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 21 July) 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.

Since the vote to leave the European Union, there has been great uncertainty over the future of EU nursing staff working in the UK. The RCN is calling on the Government to secure their future in this country.

RCN London Regional Director Bernell Bussue said: “The result of the referendum on Britain’s future in Europe could have profound effects for everyone working in nursing and all of our patients here in London. We are already hearing of local employers having more difficulty recruiting from Europe because of the ongoing uncertainty. 

“The Government needs to be much clearer about how they will protect EU nurses and other health workers who are already here caring for London’s patients. Our health service is facing a crisis in nurse recruitment and we need European colleagues to feel assured they are valued members of the nursing team who will be able to stay and build their careers here in the years to come.

 “The NHS, particularly here in London, has heavily relied on the contribution of health care professionals from around the world. The RCN will do everything we can to support our European members through this time and we will continue to speak up for the magnificent contribution they make for this country’s patients.” 

Page last updated - 15/06/2018