European Union nurses and other health and care staff will have their qualifications and registration recognised in the UK whether the country leaves the EU with or without a deal, it was revealed today.
The move, announced by health and care secretary Matt Hancock, is the result of new legislation introduced by the Department of Health and Social Care.
“My message to EU staff is clear – we all want you to feel valued and stay in the UK”
The changes will mean up to 63,000 NHS staff and 104,000 social care workers who qualified in the EU can continue to practise in the UK with their training and experience accepted by all health and social care regulators, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council.
The legislation means employment contracts will not need to be changed if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and staff will not have to re-apply for their current positions after exit day.
Mr Hancock said he wanted to make it clear the UK wanted EU nurses and other professionals to stay.
“Every day across the health and social care system, our EU colleagues and friends make a difference to millions of lives, and this vital legislation means they will be able to continue work here, whatever the Brexit outcome,” he said.
“My message to EU staff is clear – we all want you to feel valued and stay in the UK,” said Mr Hancock.
He said today’s announcement built on a commitment set out in the NHS Long Term Plan for the health service in England to recruit and retain “a world-class workforce”.
“My priority is to make sure high standards are maintained across the healthcare system and patients continue to receive the high-quality care they deserve – this legislation helps ensure that will continue to be the case,” he added.
The news was welcomed by chief nursing officer for England Dr Ruth May who hoped it would reassure EU nurses and others.
“Our EU staff make an incredible contribution to the NHS, touching the lives of patients and families as doctors, nurses, midwives, care staff, allied health professionals, porters and a whole host of other professions,” she said.
“I, therefore, welcome this news and hope that it goes some way to reassure EU staff that your expertise and skills are valued and that you matter to us,” she added.
Emma Broadbent, director of registration and revalidation at the NMC, said: “Every year more than 30,000 nurses, midwives and nursing associates from the EU deliver fantastic care to thousands of people across the UK.
“It’s good news, that with or without a deal, highly skilled professionals from the EU will continue to be able to come and work in the UK,” she said.
“Our EU staff make an incredible contribution to the NHS”
The announcement was also warmly welcomed by Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and chair of the Cavendish Coalition of health and social care organisations.
“We have been clear that we must continue to embrace the vital contribution of our talented colleagues from overseas in caring for our patients and communities,” he said.
“We very much welcome the news, as will employers and staff, that the UK will recognise the qualifications of EU professionals in a no-deal situation,” said Mr Mortimer.
He said he also hoped for similar confirmation that people with UK qualifications working in the EU would have their qualifications recognised there.
The government is encouraging EU workers to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which re-opened on 30 March and is now free.
Those who have lived in the UK for five years or longer can apply for “settled status”, while those who have lived here for less than five years can apply for “pre-settled status”.
EU nurses and other health and care professionals who wish to register in the UK post-Brexit will largely have their qualifications recognised in the same way they do now, the government said.
However, it advised people to contact the relevant professional regulator for more details.