The national result of the European Union referendum has chimed strongly with an exclusive poll of Nursing Times readers carried out in the run-up to the historic vote.
Our poll, carried out in May and early June, indicated that the margin between nurses who planned to vote to leave or remain in the EU was extremely narrow, with “Brexit” just edging ahead.
Our survey of more than 500 nurses found that 43% of respondents intended to vote to leave the EU, while 41% said they were intending to vote to remain. A further 15% told Nursing Times they were yet to make up their minds on which way they would vote.
When the undecideds are removed, the survey suggests 51% voting to leave and 49% voting to stay. The referendum result itself was 52% to leave and 48% to remain.
- Exclusive: Nurse views on EU referendum revealed
- Full survey results: What do nurses think about the EU referendum?
Analysis of our results revealed a marked association between voting trends and age, with more nurses in the 17-35 age group saying they would vote to “remain” and more in the 36-55 bracket and older intending to vote to “leave”.
We also asked nurses which result they thought would be better for nursing and the NHS as a whole, sparking conflicting answers on issues such as staffing, pay and occupational health.
According to our poll, more respondents thought staying in the EU would be better for the nursing workforce, in terms of supply of staff to the UK health and care sector – 42% backing remain versus 28% for leave.
More respondents also thought remaining in the EU would be better for the nursing working in terms of employment rights and health safety at work – 44% supporting remain compared with 19% for Brexit.
In contrast, slightly more respondents thought leaving the EU would be better for their pay – 31% versus 29% saying that remaining in the EU would be better for NHS pay and 25% who thought the referendum result would make no difference on the issue of remuneration.
Our survey suggested that the leave campaign was getting its message across more effectively on finance, with 45% of respondents believing that exiting the EU would be better for NHS finances, compared to 29% backing staying in and 11% who said the result would make no difference.
The referendum result has already sparked strong responses from senior government health officials, unions and NHS employers.