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New worries for NHS staffing post Brexit

A report published by the Home Affairs Committee has led to increased fears of a staffing crisis for employers as plans for delivering immigration services and border security post Brexit remain unclear. 


‘Home Office delivery of Brexit: Immigration’ focuses on the challenges facing the Home Office in delivering immigration services once the UK leaves the European Union. It reveals a significant lack of detail over crucial questions concerning the new arrangements for EU nationals – including those who are already in the UK, those who will arrive during the transition period, and longer term, those arriving after the transition period has ended. 


Furthermore, the White Paper, which was expected to provide some clarification over these key issues and was originally due to be published in October 2017, has been delayed again and there is presently no revised date for its publication.


These delays, a lack of clear direction and high levels of uncertainty throw further doubt on the ability of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to respond to the immigration challenges of Brexit, including processing the EU citizen registration scheme for existing residents.


The Cavendish Coalition has warned that the UK’s health and social care system cannot afford to lose its existing EU workers. Furthermore, workforce issues post Brexit could be extremely challenging, a situation which is not being helped by the current lack of clarity.


Responding to the Home Affairs Committee’s immigration report, Cavendish Coalition co-convenor, Nadra Ahmed, says: “This report highlights the huge challenges faced by UK employers in securing their current and future workforce during a period of great uncertainty. 


“The health and social care system remains under intolerable pressure and so we simply cannot afford to lose the talented EU staff we currently employ. Faced with shortages of key staff and skills which cannot be met domestically, it’s imperative we do not continue to see fewer colleagues choosing the UK.


“We welcomed the December confirmation that the rights of EU citizens will be protected - but now is the time for more detail. Employers and staff urgently require clarity on the next steps - not just for those who are currently in the UK, but for those who arrive during the transition period and beyond.


Figures recently published by NHS Employers* reveal the extent to which NHS Trusts are concerned about the impact of Brexit on their workforce. Ongoing surveys with Trusts reveal that in 2016 73% of Trusts were unsure of the impact of Brexit, compared with 19% who felt it would be negative. One year later, however, and only 49% remain unsure of the impact whilst the number that feel it will be negative has increased to 41%. The reason given for this increase in pessimism is: “Anecdotal decline in the numbers of EU nationals wanting to come to the UK and increasing numbers of experienced staff leaving the UK.”


Fewer NHS Trusts have plans to recruit from the EU – down to 35% in 2017 from 49% in 2016 – as a result of the current uncertain future for EU nationals working in the UK.


The survey concludes: “Recruitment from the EU has been an important element of the workforce strategy of many Trusts. It will be challenging for Trusts to meet their workforce supply requirements without continuing to access labour and skills from outside of the UK.”


*Working under the umbrella of the Cavendish Coalition and in partnership with NHS Providers and The Shelford Group. Click here to view the infographic.


Click here to view the Home Affairs Committee report.