Healthcare: Will there be enough NHS staff following Brexit?

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019, and the two sides are still negotiating the terms of its exit and its future relations in a whole range of issues. You would be forgiven for not being able to keep up.

One major factor in the deal is our National Health System – depending on the final Brexit deal, will we have enough staff?

According to the Cavendish Coalition/NMC, 1 in 20 of the 1.5m NHS staff are from the EU – 9% of doctors, 5% of nurses and midwives and 16% of dentists.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul feels that changes from Brexit have the potential to create chaos in the NHS.

“Freedom of movement has enabled thousands of EU nationals to work in health and social care organisations across the UK, helping NHS trusts, boards and providers ensure gaps in the medical workforce are filled quickly by qualified workers with the appropriate level of training and education.”

There has been a 2,385 drop in EU nurses and midwives in the past year, in the UK, and the group of 36 healthcare charities believes the weaker pound and Brexit could worsen the staffing shortages currently being seen in the health service.

It is not clear what a no-deal Brexit could mean, however the Brexit agreement means that those currently working will have the opportunity to obtain “settled status” to allow them to stay.

The government also plans to “grow its own” by increasing the numbers of doctors and nurses in training, but this does not mean discriminating between any one region or country, and Mr Javid stressed that a skills based system will be based on merit.

The home secretary Sajid Javid said that people immigrating to the UK will have to meet the requirements of a skills based system, pass a ‘British values test’ as well as tougher English language demands.

The system, known as tier two visas, allows doctors and senior nurses to be recruited from overseas.

Dr Nagpaul added: “Our immigration system needs to work for the health and care sector as a whole, and ensure the NHS can recruit and retain doctors and other NHS workers in sufficient numbers.”

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