Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken for the first time since the European Union referendum result, calling on the country to value the contribution of EU workers in the health service.
Mr Hunt said he wanted to speak directly to the 110,000 EU staff in the health and care sector, telling them: “You do a brilliant job for your patients, you are a crucial part of our NHS, and as a country we value you.
“We all must now do everything we can to ensure our whole workforce feels secure”
“We all must now do everything we can to ensure our whole workforce feels secure – because that is the only way we’ll ensure we can deliver high quality care for all,” he told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.
Mr Hunt also said the country must accept the outcome of the referendum and the challenges it had created “whilst a new relationship with Europe is determined”.
His comments follow reports that EU workers in the NHS have expressed concerns about the vote last week and there have been isolated reports of staff facing racist abuse.
Mr Hunt said: “However they voted, the British people expect continuity and stability in public life – nowhere more so than in terms of our NHS, something we all depend on and the most highly valued and loved public service of all.
“I want to say directly to the 110,000 EU workers in our health and care system – you do a brilliant job for your patients, you are a crucial part of our NHS, and as a country we value you,” he said.
He added that 10% of doctors and more than 20,000 NHS nurses were from another EU country and “we simply could not do without their contribution”.
The words from the health secretary largely echo those from NHS England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings and medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, who have both separately stated that EU staff working for the NHS should be valued and appreciated.
Mr Hunt said: “As Professor Sir Bruce Keogh rightly said last week, we all must now do everything we can to ensure our whole workforce feels secure – because that is the only way we’ll ensure we can deliver high quality care for all.”
The health secretary was named as a potential candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party by The Sunday Times at the weekend, although his odds, according to bookmaker William Hill, were running at 66/1 on Monday.