Today (Wednesday) nursing staff from across the UK will tell MPs why they back a second referendum on the final terms of the Brexit deal – the People’s Vote.At a parliamentary drop-in event for MPs and Peers, 12 nurses from the UK and EU will share their experiences of working in the NHS across the UK since the Brexit vote. They will highlight their concerns on how Brexit is affecting the nursing workforce and its impact on the future supply of medicines, public health and nursing regulation.
At the RCN’s annual Congress in May 2018, RCN members from across the UK debated the implications of Brexit, resulting in a vote to campaign for a referendum on the final deal of Brexit.
The RCN event, “Nursing at Brexit Point”, is sponsored by Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach, crossbencher Baroness Watkins of Tavistock and Labour MP Jim Cunningham. It follows 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.
The RCN warns that Brexit poses an immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective health care, as well as collective efforts to improve public health.
The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has recently advised health leaders to check their contingency plans for the continued supply of medicines in the event of no deal Brexit. Adding to current plans to stockpile medicines for six weeks he has said the NHS should prepare to use alternative routes in the event of disruption on cross-channel routes.1
There has been a fall in the number of EU nurses applying to work in the UK. Between October 2017 – September 2018 fewer than 900 EU nurses signed up to work in the UK compared to 10,000 only two years ago. Meanwhile the number of EU nurses and midwives who left the register from October 2017 – September 2018 was 3560.
Uncertainty surrounding the status of EU staff had raised concerns that the UK nursing shortage risks being worsened by Brexit. However the Home Office have now confirmed that the EU Settlement Scheme will be honoured in the event of a no-deal. The EU Settlement Scheme means EU nationals can continue to live and work in the UK after 31 December 2020.
Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, will say:
“Amid the chaos of the last few days in Parliament, nursing staff have delivered a strong message to MPs today on how Brexit will affect them and most importantly the safety of the patients they care for.
“Uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU is putting healthcare 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.”
Notes to Editors
1.Government update on medicines supply preparations in the event of a no deal: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/medicines-supply-no-deal-brexit-preparation-plans-update
2. RCN Brexit Priorities: https://www.rcn.org.uk/-/media/royal-college-of-nursing/documents/publications/2018/may/pdf-006981.pdf