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Exclusive: Call for nursing leaders to have say in Brexit negotiations


Healthcare leaders in the UK must have a voice in the Brexit negotiations due to the expected impact on workforce, an expert on global nursing policy has warned.

The intervention from Howard Catton, director of nursing, policy and programmes at the International Council of Nurses, comes as a new report highlights the effect the vote to leave the European Union is already having on nurse recruitment.

“It’s really important in terms of the future of the health workforce and healthcare”

Howard Catton

Mr Catton told Nursing Times: “The impact of Brexit on the health workforce could be really significant and I don’t know how close health is to these Brexit negotiations.

“I think health and those who are concerned about the health workforce have a legitimate right to be closely involved in decisions that take place about Brexit whatever form that takes,” he said.

He added: “[We should make] sure that health leaders from right across the service and including people who are concerned with the health workforce are included and involved, and have a voice and influence in these hugely significant negotiations that will take place over the coming weeks and months.

“It’s really important in terms of the future of the health workforce and healthcare,” Mr Catton told Nursing Times.

The Care Quality Commission’s State of Care document, released yesterday, said the EU referendum outcome “adds to the uncertainty in health and care in the challenge to recruit and retain staff”.

It shows the number of new EU nurses and midwives registering to work in the UK fell from 9,389 in the year to March 2016 down to 805 in the year to March 2018, while the number leaving rose from 1,981 to 3,962 over the same period.

This decline was only “slightly offset” by a rise in the new nurse and midwives from countries outside the EU, the report added.

Mr Catton, formerly head of policy and international affairs at the Royal College of Nursing, also said recruiting to the UK from overseas would become harder due to global shortages of nurses.

“What we are seeing internationally is it’s becoming much more competitive to recruit nurses, so it’s not as easy as it was in the past – a lot of countries that are short will look to recruit,” he said. “Relying on recruitment overseas I don’t think will be as easy in the future because it will be more competitive.”

Mr Catton said employers must be mindful of the state of health services and workforce in a country when deciding where to recruit nurses from.

“If you are recruiting in a country the impact on a country already short on nurses could mean services close or waiting times increase and these might be countries where health services are not as developed as other countries,” he told Nursing Times.

“There is a lot of focus here around the regulation processes of overseas recruits, language testing, identifying people’s qualifications, but the ethics of recruiting overseas must be considered equally alongside those other issues,” he noted.

Howard Catton

Howard Catton

Source: Andrew Youngson

Howard Catton

“No-one would say you can’t recruit overseas but it should be done in that ethical framework,” he stated. 

Mr Catton highlighted latest figures that showed by 2030 there would be a 7.6m global shortage of nurses and midwives, including 2.8m in Africa, 1.2m in Eastern Mediterranean and 1.9m in South-East Asia.

He said the key nursing issues were broadly the same in countries around the world – staff levels, leadership development, quality of work environments, education, continuing professional development training and increased workload and pressure.

While successful policies to tackle these challenges in one country could not simply be replicated in another, Mr Catton said leaders must communicate and share valuable learning.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Is this a joke? Look at the mess they have allowed the nursing profession to get into, supporting the ending of the bursary and introduction of the nurse associate, colluding with the government to limit the pay rise. Encouraging a box ticking mentality and an explosion in unnecessary paperwork.

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  • If our politicians don't agree with democracy, why else are they shouting for another vote on Brexit instead of getting together to sort out the best deal, what chance have we as a profession of reasoning with them. We couldn't even get a fair pay rise out of them as well as what Anonymous 15th October mentions.

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  • What, like they had a say in negotiating our latest fiasco of a pay round? If they do have any part in the talks, I would recommend they only be allowed to supply the refreshments, but not anything involving boiling water; I wouldn't want them to scald themselves making tea.

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