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Brexit will lead to chronic nursing shortages says new report

Today the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has released a report, commissioned by the Cavendish Coalition, which is made up of 36 organisations in the health and social care sector, claiming Brexit could see the UK short of 51,000 nurses by 2021.

The report states that EEA nationals account for over 5% of regulated nursing staff, 9% of doctors, 16% of dentists and 5% of allied health professionals. But it is in social care where nursing shortages will be most acutely felt according to the report, and especially by those nations that did not vote to leave the EU.  With Northern Ireland being the most dependent UK nation on EEA nurses, followed by Scotland.

Looking at data from 2016, the report notes that prior to the Brexit vote the number of EEA nationals making up the social care workforce stood at 5.4%, and that this had grown absolutely to 30,600 individuals since 2011.

The report estimates that the UK will lose 2700 nurses by the time of its formal withdrawal from the EU, whilst the remaining transition period could see a further 5000-10,000 nurses leave the UK. These figures, coupled with existing data from the NHS, means the UK could be short of 51,000 nurses by 2021.

The report also states there is a clear link between high-turnover of nurses and lack of retention and worse outcomes for patient care. It is also critical of this and past Conservative government’s for scrapping nursing bursaries.

The report recommends the government to state it will honour the right to remain of EEA nationals in the event of no-deal Brexit – citing uncertainty of future migration statuses and the ability to work as another key driver in the decline in nursing staff. Reacting to the news, a spokesperson for the National Health Action Party stated:

“This report makes for grim reading. But its conclusions aren’t surprising. The government has consistently been told that austerity and the abolition of nursing bursaries was always going to have a negative impact on staff numbers.

Likewise, the government’s refusal to guarantee the right to remain of EEA citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit was always going to push away hard working, talented and much needed health care professionals.

It is time the Conservative Party put the country before party and simply committed to remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union. That is the only way we can guarantee the continued recruitment of needed NHS workers and the sharing of best practice as well as transfer of medicines”

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