The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion calling for what the party describes as an “NHS Passport” in order to protect the rights of European Union citizens working in the health service.
The party, which is currently holding its spring conference, repeated a call to secure the rights of the 59,000 EU citizens working in the NHS.
“It is vital that we reassure NHS staff and social care workers from the EU”
It cited figures showing a sharp rise in nurses from the EU quitting the health service in England. Over 2,700 EU nurses left the NHS in 2016, a 68% increase compared to two years ago.
Freedom of Information responses to the Liberal Democrats from 80 of the 136 NHS acute trusts showed that 2,700 EU nurses left the health service in 2016, compared to 1,600 EU nurses in 2014.
Nursing and Midwifery Council figures have also shown the number of EU nationals registering as nurses has dropped by 92%, while the Royal College of Nursing says there are 24,000 NHS nurse jobs unfilled.
A motion passed by members at the party’s conference in York today called for an immediate guaranteed right to live and work in the UK for all EU citizens working in NHS and care services.
The motion also called for the urgent reinstatement of the nursing bursary to address the huge shortage of nurses in the NHS.
The Liberal Democrats had previously pledged to lobby for immediate action to protect the rights of EU nurses, ahead of a vote in the House of Lords earlier this month on the so-called Brexit bill.
Speaking on the motion, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “It is vital that we reassure NHS staff and social care workers from the EU that they remain welcome and valued in the UK following Brexit.
“NHS and care services would struggle to cope if significant numbers of doctors, nurses and NHS staff from the EU left,” he added.
Earlier today, Downing Street announced that prime minister Theresa May will trigger the Article 50 process on 29 March, which officially notifies the EU that the UK wishes to leave.