The NHS in England has come to rely on significant numbers of nurses from certain European Union countries in recent years, new figures confirm.
A report from NHS Digital has highlighted a “notable change” in the numbers of registered nurses originating from Portugal, Italy and Spain working in the NHS over the last six or seven years.
It stated for several European nationalities, there have been “very large increases” since 2009.
The number of Portuguese nurses has risen from 210 in 2009 to 3,606 in 2016, the number of Italian nurses from 192 to 2,294 and the number of Spanish nurses from 406 to 4,702.
The report noted that “small raw increases in numbers should be interpreted with caution because there are now far fewer ‘unknown’ records than there were in 2009”.
“However, all the cases mentioned in the previous paragraph represent a notable change in the percentage of known nurses as well as in raw numbers,” stated the report.
The increase idenitfied by NHS Digital follows specific recruitment efforts by trusts around the country targeted at European countries prior to the result of the EU referendum and the subsequent workforce concerns sparked by Brexit.
- Exclusive: European nurses feel chill after Brexit vote
- CNO tells EU nurses they are ‘valued by NHS’
- EU staff are ‘crucial part of our NHS’, says Hunt
In comparison, the NHS Digital report highlighted that there were “now substantially fewer nurses from some nationalities than in 2009”.
There has been a reduction of over 1,300 Zimbabwean nurses – 34% of the total – and there have also been large reductions of Philippine, Indian and Nigerian nurses.
There are also estimated to be 51% fewer South African nurses, 42% fewer Malaysian nurses and 35% fewer Australian nurses than there were in 2009.
Overall, the NHS Digital report noted that 84% of nurses and health visitors in hospital and community health services are British.
This compares to 7% (21,077) nurses who describe themselves as an EU nationality other than British. Of these, 62% are either Irish, Spanish or Portuguese.
Meanwhile, 5% (15,921) nurses have an Asian nationality. Of these, 90% are either Philippine or Indian. There are 7,274 with an African nationality, while the highest “other” nationality is Jamaican.
The figures for nurses vary more between regions than those for doctors. For example, in the North East region, British nurses make up 96% of the total compared to 66% in North West London.
The proportion of nurses from other EU countries varies from 1% in the North East to 15% in South London, said NHS Digital, adding that 36% of nurses from other EU countries work in London.