New figures have revealed a 96 per cent drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to practice in the UK since July last year.
The figures were obtained by the Health Foundation from a Freedom of Information request to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). They show that after a sharp decline from a high of 1,304 in July last year to 344 two months later in September, numbers have continued to fall, with just 46 EU nurse registrants in April this year.
The UK has repeatedly used international recruitment as a stop-gap measure to fill staffing shortages, and since 2008 the majority of international nurses registering in the UK have come from within the EU. But the fall in EU registrants suggests that a more sustainable long-term approach to workforce planning is urgently needed.
Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, commented, ‘The recruitment and retention of nurses is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care, with a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone.
‘The drop in EU nurses registering to work in the UK could not be more stark – just 46 registered to work in the UK in April. Without EU nurses it will be even harder for the NHS and other employers to find the staff they need to provide safe patient care. The findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and health service leaders.
‘Clearly action is needed to off-set any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future. But the overall shortage of 30,000 nurses is not a shortage caused by the Brexit vote. The chronic shortage of nurses is the result of years of short-term planning and cuts to training places. A sustainable, long-term approach to workforce planning is desperately needed.’