Brexit is a term referring to the decision by Britain to leave the EU (European Union). It has many effects including causing uncertainty for employment of graduates in various professionals including nursing.
When a majority of the people voted for Brexit, many juts thought of the political implications on the then PM and his Government. However, the effects cut deeper. This decision is depriving the health service of many nurses from EU countries such as Portugal, Ireland and Spain. According to a study by the Institute of employment studies, UK has been recruiting heavily for healthcare professionals from these countries.
British cannot underestimate the input by EU nurses. Almost 5% of the nurses in NHS workforce in England are non-UK. If nurses from the rest of Europe stop migrating to Britain, hospitals in London, East England, and The Thames Valley will be hit hardest because they rely much on them.Severity of Brexit to Nursing Shortage
Since the Brexit referendum, many nurses from other European countries began turning their backs on Britain to the extent that the number of those who are registering to work here has been falling reaching up to 90%. In January 2017, only 101 nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK from other European Union nations. It is a significant drop from 1,300 in July 2016, a month after the Brexit referendum. The number of nurses alone applying for registration to work in Britain dramatically fell from 697 in July 2017 to 435 inquiries in December 2016. In January 2017, the figure of nurses and midwives asking for an application pack to work in the UK was nearly 3,700 but after changing of rules for recruiting nurses from EU countries to allow language tests by regulators in fell to 861.
The significant drop is the initial sign of change after a referendum, and it caused panic until the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) decided to take up the responsibility to do something. It did a survey whose outcome is that the number of UE nurses who are deciding to stop working in the UK. Royal College of Nurses has issued a warning that the UK is likely to experience a sharper shortage of nurses by up to 24,000. NHS cannot find enough UK nurses to fill up these positions without hiring nurses from EU.
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A growing reluctance by EU nursing to work in the NHS may pose severe difficulties for the hospitals. Some of them hire even up to 20% of the nurses from European Economic Area. Since the Brexit referendum, foreign nurses do not have a guarantee that EU nationals who work in NHS will remain. They fear that there will be a day when employers will terminate their service. Despite the repeated assurance that nurses who are already working in the UK will not be told to leave after the full process to leave EU, it will be harder to retain non-British nurses when they know that hiring of their counterparts has come to an end. If the EU nurses in the NHS start resigning because they feel unwelcome, patient care will suffer.
The potential of EU nurses is important at this point as it coincides with an increase in demand for care because of the growing number of older people aged over 85 years putting a greater strain to NHS. The uncertainty about what will happen after UK full exit from EU and the expected shortage of nurses would leave NHS nursing workforce vulnerable to any disruption that may occur to the recruitment pipeline.
Since late 2016, there are perennial reports of nursing staff shortage in most of the hospitals and patients are waiting longer to receive care. NHS officials are considering India and Pakistan as potential providers of healthcare staff to solve ongoing crisis.