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Brexit may hit NHS nurse 'pipeline', says NMC chief

  • 14 Comments

The “pipeline” of nurses coming to the NHS may be constrained because of likely changes to the approval process for those coming from the European Union, according to the UK’s nursing and midwifery regulator.

Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said there would be a major impact of the regulator’s ability to process applications if it were required to apply its current approval procedures for nurses from the rest of the world to those coming from the EU.

“There would be an issue with the pipeline”

Jackie Smith

It would also mean additional costs for the NMC, she told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal. She said at present 10 times more nurses came to the UK from the EU than the rest of the world.

“There would be an issue with the pipeline,” she said. “If you look at the process that is in place for those coming from non-EU countries there are a number of requirements that need to be met. Not least all their documentation and verifying it all and getting their visa and coming here and taking a skills test.

“EU nurses have to verify documents with us and take an English language test, where it is appropriate, but they don’t have to get a visa. There are bound to be things that make the process longer,” said Ms Smith.

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

She added: “If we have come out of the single market and out of the freedom of workers to work within the European Union, what we would be facing, subject to what is finally agreed, would be applicants from France, Germany, Spain etc being treated on the same basis as nurses coming from the Philippines, America and Australia because that free movement of workers would no longer apply.

“If that is the case that means they would have to undergo what is currently in place – an online test, a skills assessment here in the UK and then a decision about whether they can go on our register,” she said.

“At the moment applicants coming from the EU are 10 to one for coming from those from other countries,” Ms Smith told HSJ.

The NHS is heavily reliant on the supply of nurses from EU countries, with around 4% of the present workforce having come from union nations. The service has also struggled to fill nursing posts in recent years, leading to widespread efforts to recruit from abroad, as well as high agency costs.

“There are bound to be things that make the process longer”

Jackie Smith

In October 2015 home secretary Theresa May added nursing to the government’s shortage occupation list in response to a major problem with recruiting sufficient staff from the EU, and following lobbying by NHS England.

Ms Smith also said: “If… everyone coming from outside the UK would have to go through [the current process for non-EU nurses], we would have to assess the implication on us and the increase in resource and impact on our financial position.

“It would not mean automatically that the [nurses registration] fee would go up, absolutely not, but we would have to take a view,” she said. “We would have to look at our resources.”

She also pointed out that the potential for Scotland to become independent also had consequences for the NMC, and other professional regulators, as they operate across all four UK countries.

  • 14 Comments

Readers' comments (14)

  • Why are we cutting the UK training bursary as we should be encouraging training?

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  • Perhaps instead of relying on imported nursing staff from the EU we should have been increasing places for those already here to undertake nurse training - now there's a novel idea!!!!

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  • Student nurses cant afford to train in the UK, unlike other students with long holidays where they can get a paid job, student nurses are working/studying throughout the year.This combined with the slashing of the NHS budget leaves nurses unsure if they will have a job.
    Employers & trusts then start shipping nurses in, often from the most deprived countries leaving the patients in these countries without their precious medical workforce. Lesotho is one such country after care home owners started shipping planeloads into the UK complete with NMC PINs
    UK must start and train its own nurses, to begin with by ensuring a good bursary for the students or at least pay them for the time they work on the wards

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  • I agree with the other comments. We should be focusing on retaining the nurses we have (from uk and overseas) and putting a stop to the unfair idea of stopping student bursaries. On a slightly different notewe need to ensure wherever ovoverseas nurses come from their English is up to scratch. I don't know how vigilant the NMC are at this but aanecdotally I have found this to be a major problem. Also, of course our fees will go up. Undoubtedly the NMC will be planning an increase already due to re-validation so any excuse to add a few more £'s.

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  • I think the time has come for UK to be fair to all nurses regardless of where they come from and not give special treatment for EU nurses to ensure that they get quality nurses. Now because of brexit we are assured that everyone undergoes the same scrutiny before being granted a nursing license and a visa in the UK. No more EU preferential treatment but an objective measurement of one's ability to perform safe nursing practice in the UK. Now EU nurses will feel how it is to be an overseas nurse like we non EU nurses feel (passing language tests and NMC requirements plus visa requirements.
    Will NMC and UK Home office rethink its policy? What will Theresa May do now? Suspending the implementation of the 35k income requirement is already a big slap on her stubborness and to the proud coalition government headed by David Cameron.
    I think it is okay to implement that rule provided that band 5 or entry level nurses receive nothing less than 35k per annum as a starting salary. Justice for the work that nurses do. Another slap to whoever thought of that policy for ILR.

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  • Overseas nurses should be treated equally irrespective of where they come from, EU or non EU.

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  • Brexit or no brexit we can recruit from anywhere so we are not restricted

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  • It's cheaper to import staff than train our own. And you will usually find there training is far more superior

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  • I am a South African trained nurse ,I had to undertake all the tests to get NMC registration IELTS,CBT and OSCE .I work with a few EU nurses all of them their English is bad,it makes me angry that I had to write an IELTS exam when I did my primary,high school and university degree in English!EU or nonEU trained nurses must be treated the same , I know our nurse training is South Africa is good.

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  • Jonathan Gopsill

    Oh wow!!! Has somebody actually managed to put 2 & 2 together to come with 4?
    Sorry but that was obviously going to happen. With the squeeze on students and revalidation to boot. What did we expect?
    I've been a nurse for the best of 20 years but I'm out too!

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