Major hospitals in England rely on the EU for more than a fifth of doctors or nurses new analysis reveals, leading Unite to warn that a Brexit deal needs to stem the exodus of European NHS medical personnel that is exacerbating staffing shortages.
Senior NHS figures are alarmed that posts will go unfilled as recruitment from the EU continues to falter, with consequences on waiting times, hospital bed levels and the ability to carry out operations.
Research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that specific trusts and hospitals depend heavily on EU staff – especially those with frontline roles.
Some of the most reliant include London’s Great Ormond Street children’s hospitals, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Oxford University Hospitals, heart and lung specialists the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust in London and Cambridgeshire heart specialists Royal Papworth.
EU staff make up around 5 per cent of the total NHS England workforce, however at eight NHS trusts they account for more than 20 per cent of doctors or nurses.
In 92 trusts more than 10 per cent of doctors or nurses are EU citizens.
Chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said EU recruitment levels have “plummeted” and warned that if nurse numbers continue falling then waiting times will rocket.
He said, “We would have to close capacity because we couldn’t man the beds or run the theatres. Costs would go up because we had to rely on agency staff and they are more expensive.”
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said there is also a trend of EU NHS staff leaving the country.
He said, “Our members tell us EU nationals are already looking for jobs outside the NHS and there are a number that have already left because of the uncertainty.
“The NHS is already experiencing severe staff shortages in many areas, particularly amongst the nursing profession… and heavily relies on the hardworking contributions of health professionals from across the EU – and has done for many years.”
Jarrett-Thorpe added, “Any Brexit deal should guarantee the existing rights for EU nationals already in the UK, whether they work for the NHS or not.
“Going forward post-Brexit, EU nationals should be welcomed to workplaces where there is decent pay, good regulatory standards and demand for their skills, such as the NHS.”