The number of nurses coming to work in the NHS after Brexit from non-EU countries could increase, if the government follows up a recommendation by its Migration Advisory Committee to scrap the limits on non-EU migration.
At present, anyone from the EU can enter Britain to look for work under Single Market freedom of movement rules, but migration from outside the bloc is capped at 20,700 workers.
This has meant that nurses from the EU have been able to come and find work on the NHS easily, whereas that opportunity has been limited for those coming from other countries.
However, the committee has argued in its report, after Brexit the system should be changed to abolish the non-EU quota, with the preferred model being the system used in Canada. This will give no specific preference to any country - or the EU - but potentially offer more opportunities to those coming from elsewhere.
The report does not call for any sector-specific migration programmes except in agriculture, where a lot of seasonal labourers come from EU countries. However, it does call for preference to be given to highly-skilled workers. This latter recommendation could translate into a high priority being given to nurses and other health professionals, whether they come from the EU or elsewhere.
Data in recent months has indicated that there will be a pressing need to tackle the issue of overseas nursing numbers, with a significant drop in the number of EU nurses already being witnessed.
The Health Foundation thinktank recently warned that a shortage of nurses was the biggest threat to the NHS in England and Wales, with Brexit adding to the problem.
It noted that there had been an 87 per cent drop in nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK, falling from 6,382 in 2016-17 to 805 in 2017-18, according to figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The thinktank's survey found 71 per cent of the public said Britain should continue recruiting nurses from the EU after Brexit. This included 65 per cent of leave voters.
Written by James Puckle
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