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Think-tank calls for EU nurses working in NHS to be made British citizens


Overseas nurses recruited by the NHS from European Union countries should be granted British citizenship in order to “safeguard” health services in a “post-Brexit world”, according to a report.

The Institute for Public Policy Research said the present system for obtaining British citizenship needed urgent reform to stop a “big brain drain” of highly skilled workers in the wake of the UK voting to leave the EU.

“It is vital that valued colleagues are supported to stay”

Donna Kinnair

The government should offer automatic British citizenship to all Europeans working in the NHS, to “recognise the importance of their contribution” and “prevent a health emergency”, said the report by IPPR research fellow Chris Murray.

“We recommend that the government makes a particularly generous citizenship offer to NHS workers,” it said. “Without them, the NHS would collapse. It is critical to public health that these workers do not seek jobs elsewhere.”

It also called on ministers to grant indefinite leave to remain to all EU citizens currently resident in Britain and offer automatic citizenship to all European children educated in Britain.

Additionally, it said the £1,200 fee for British citizenship should be waived for all EU citizens who have been living here for more than five years.

The think-tank highlighted that the British citizenship system had “lain unreformed for decades” and the Brexit vote had cast into doubt the “status and security” of three million EU citizens in Britain.

Institute for Public Policy Research

UK should offer EU nurses citizenship to ‘safeguard NHS’

Chris Murray

“Swift and fundamental reform is urgently needed”, said the institute in its report – titled Becoming one of us: Reforming the UK’s citizenship system for a competitive, post-Brexit world.

“The contribution that EU workers have made to the National Health Service especially must be recognised and safeguarded,” it stated.

“The country’s social cohesion depends upon a comprehensive system that integrates the migrants who have made their lives here into the national population,” the report added.

The Royal College of Nursing said it supported the institute’s call for the position of EU nationals working for the NHS to be safeguarded.

Dame Donna Kinnair, the RCN’s director of nursing, policy and practice, said: “Without a guarantee that EU nationals working in the NHS can remain in this country it will be much harder to retain and recruit staff from the EU.”

Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Donna Kinnair

She warned that a lack of “concrete assurances” over the future of EU nursing staff risked making the UK’s ongoing nurse shortage worse.

“It is vital that valued colleagues are supported to stay,” she said. “The IPPR is absolutely right that the NHS could not cope without the contribution of EU nationals.

“Allowing any ambiguity about our NHS workforce to continue is a completely unfair way of treating people who are caring for our friends and families every single day,” Dame Donna.

“The UK must send a clear message that the people who keep its health service going will be treated fairly,” she added.

Nick Simpson, chief executive of recruitment agency MSI Group, also backed the idea.

“Without EU workers the NHS would simply fall over,” he said. “With this in mind, we fully support the IPPR’s recommendation.”



Readers' comments (5)

  • How are other overseas nurses treated? I assume they aren't offered citizenship as part of the deal but are free to pursue citizenship after the standard period of residency.

    If so, why is the NHS so freaked? This is the worst run 'business' imaginable! If you need nurses, and overseas nurses are the immediate answer, then you source them. If you have some via the EU, how does Brexit alter that other that in a way that differs from non-EU immigrant nurses?

    Without knowing too much of the detail it sounds as though the NHS is worried that EU nurses (and the NHS) have relied so much on the false assumption that the EU is equivalent to a nationality that both are ill-prepared to deal with the bureaucracy involved in extending a visa or pursuing formal citizenship, so the NHS are asking the government to parent everyone.

    By the time all this actually goes through, most EU staff currently here will have the relevant years of residency to pursue formal citizenship, which they should do if they are concerned and intend to stay. Ward managers/equivalent ought to ensure residency-to-citizenship information is available on the noticeboard. If people have been brave enough to relocate to other country, not of their native language, and have graduated in nursing, it ought not to be frightening to research this and plan for the near future.

    Don't leave everything to the last minute if you have within your power the chance to apply for citizenship or get the information ahead of time.

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  • And what about non-EU overseas nurses? Are their contribution not equally important?

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  • Just informed my French husband about this article and to put it nicely. He would rather leave then become a British citizen ! He felt unwelcome here in the NHS even before brexit. NHS loss as they will lose a talented nurse who puts up with far to much. No breaks finishing work late.

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  • Nonsense article as the details of Brexit have not even been decided.
    Just another example of the left wing media wingeing and putting out scare tactics because they lost! Get over it! Maybe people that voted for Brexit would prefer that EU staff weren't given citizenship and that instead the government treated its indigenous staff in such a manner that they want to remain with the NHS and new members chose to join the NHS

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  • Discrimination is in the body of NHS ; its never going to end all oversease nurses are experiencing it wheather they work hard or not.

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