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Nursing shortages biggest risk to NHS

Thursday 26th July 2018
A lack of nurses poses a major threat to the NHS, with Brexit making the situation worse, a new report has suggested.
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A lack of nursing staff is the number one biggest risk to the NHS, according to the Health Foundation think tank.

The foundation said the fact that 36,000 posts - ten per cent of the total nursing workforce - are unfilled represents a serious crisis. 

Brexit appears to be exacerbating the situation, with a fall of 87 per cent in the number of nursing staff coming to Britain from the EU. In 2016-17 there were 6,382 EU nurses starting work in the health service, but in 2017-18 the tally had plummeted to 805, according to Nursing and Midwifery Council figures. 

Moreover, the number of nurses coming from outside the EU has not closed the gap. 

Director of research and economics at the organisation Anita Charlesworth said: "The huge drop in the number of EU nurses coming to work in the NHS following the referendum is a stark reminder that we must never take overseas staff for granted."

The Health Foundation said its own survey showed the public shared concerns about a lack of nursing staff, with 79 per cent saying the NHS is understaffed. Among all voters, 71 per cent agreed that Britain should still look to recruit nurses from the EU after Brexit, including 65 per cent of those who voted leave. 

Janet Davies from the Royal College of Nursing said: "Voters and taxpayers are sending a clear message to the government - a nurse who trained in Barcelona is as welcome as a nurse who trained in Bradford."

Of course, once Brexit has happened after March next year, the UK will be free to set its own immigration policies, and while the freedom of movement provision in the single market will no longer apply, the government will still be able to offer good terms to those coming from the EU, as well as anywhere else in the world that might provide lots of nurses. 

Even so, the potential for ongoing shortfalls means there are lots of opportunities for Britons seeking nursing jobs, whether to train from scratch or return to the profession. 
 
Written by James Puckle

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