Tory Brexiteer turned International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told voters during last year’s referendum campaign that EU immigration made it “very difficult for the NHS to know how many doctors and nurses will be required.”
Well, today the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has cleared up the confusion for Fox with research that shows there are 24,000 unfilled nursing posts across Britain. And rather than improve the situation, the union has revealed that Brexit has exacerbated the NHS staffing shortage.
An RCN analysis shows that fewer than 200 EU nurses registered per month with the Nursing and Midwifery Council between September and December 2016. That compares with 800 per month over the same period in 2015.
Joan Pons Laplana, a Spanish nurse working in Great Yarmouth, said:
“The UK is no longer the first choice for EU nurses. The uncertain future means many they are starting to leave. We are people with feelings, not a commodity at the Brexit table.”
In addition to the drop in recruitment, 2,700 EU nurses voluntarily quit the nurses register last year. RCN chief executive Janet Davies spelled out the problem:
“The Government is turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before.”
But if the Tories we’re hoping to fill the ever widening gap with a new generation of UK schooled nurses then they might want to reconsider George Osborne’s decision to scrap bursaries for trainee nurses.
Applications for nursing degree courses fell by 20% as a result of the decision to replace bursaries with loans.
If only someone had promised an extra £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS – enough to employ 600,000 extra nurses…