European Union nurses and other staff must be allowed to stay in the UK following Brexit or staffing shortages will get worse, nurses from a major health union have warned.
At Unison’s annual health conference, held in Liverpool this week, they also accused the government of using Europeans living in the UK as “political pawns” in negotiations to leave the EU.
“If we do not grant EU nationals the right to remain, it will compound the current staffing shortage”
EU staff were already leaving the country or considering a return home, due to uncertainty about their future in the UK after the government had so far failed to confirm their right to remain here, the nurses claimed.
They noted that the UK now had an estimated shortage of 24,000 nurses, that recruitment had reached “crisis level” and the NHS could not afford to lose any more employees.
Linda Hobson, Unison’s nursing and midwifery sector representative, said nurses in the UK were already facing a number of pressures that were causing them to reconsider staying in the profession.
“I worry that nurses are already voting what their feet and leaving the profession due to short staffing, burnout, low pay and scrapping the bursary and now they’re [the government] threatening the profession’s future even further by using EU staff as political pawns in Brexit negotiations,” she said.
“Our valued, and much-needed EU nurses are also voting with their feet and many have already returned or are intending to return home soon,” she said.
“Our valued, and much-needed EU nurses are also voting with their feet and many have already returned”
“If we do not grant EU nationals the right to remain, it will compound the current staffing shortage,” she added.
Ms Hobson called on union members to “get on the campaign trail and show they [EU nurses] are really wanted”.
A motion calling on the union to act across a range of areas supporting the EU staff, including lobbying the government for their right to remain in the UK following Brexit, was carried.