European nurses are turning their backs on Britain following the Brexit referendum, according to figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Just 101 nurses and midwives from EU countries joined the UK register last month, compared with 1,304 in July – the month immediately after the referendum.
Furthermore, the NMC statistics also show a rise in the number of EU nurses who have decided to stop working in the UK. In June, the month of the referendum, 177 nurses decided to leave the NMC’s register. That figure had almost doubled last month to 318.
There’s also been a significant drop in the number of nurses and midwives from Europe asking for application packs.
Last January, some 3,700 people asked for application packs to register to work in Britain. The following month – after rules were changed to allow regulators to carry out language tests – just 861 asked for application packs. That figure fell to 453 in December.
The NHS relies heavily on overseas workers and the NMC has warned that if the trend continues, the health service could plunge into a deeper “crisis”.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “If this is the beginning of a long-term drop that’s a serious concern at a time when we’re already facing a crisis.”
She insisted that the NHS simply “could not cope” without the contribution of EU nurses to fill the 24,000 vacancies across Britain and relieve the current staff shortage.
“Without a guarantee that EU nationals working in the NHS can remain, it will be much harder to retain and recruit staff from the EU, and patient care will suffer as a result,” she added.
However, Davies did say that it was still too early to “definitively” link the trends to the Brexit vote.
It emerged in January that nearly every hospital in the UK has a shortage of nurses. As a result, staff have said patients were being left unwashed, unmonitored and without crucial medications.
Analysis of official NHS data found that a staggering 96% of acute hospitals failed to provide the planned number of registered nurses to cover day shifts in October last year – the worst performance since monitoring began.
The situation is compounded by the fact that flu cases are rising and norovirus levels are 75% higher than last year. As a result, more than four in 10 NHS trusts declared a major alert in January, amid warnings of the worst winter pressures in history.
Brexit has also been blamed for igniting tensions in UK hospitals, with racist attacks on NHS staff having more than doubled in a year, rising from 225 in 2014-15 to 496 in 2015-16, according to official statistics.
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