The number of nurses and midwifes coming to work in Britain from Europe is continuing to fall drastically in the wake of the EU referendum vote, figures have revealed.
According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 1,107 hospital workers from Europe applied to come to the UK between September 2016 and September 2017, compared to 10,179 people who joined the register the previous year – a fall of 89%.
The trend was first spotted by the NMC in June following figures obtained by Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. The figures show that in April 2017, there were just 46 applications from EU nurses to work in the UK, compared to 1,304 in July 2016 – one month after Brexit – and 344 two months later in September 2016.
The latest figures from the NMC coincide with another worrying overall trend of trained nurses and midwives leaving the profession.
The data shows the number of nurses and midwives from Europe leaving the register increased by 67% (4,067), with the number of UK staff leaving the register rising by 9%, from 26,653 in 2015-16 to 29,019 last year.
Jackie Smith, chief executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said:"It's worrying that we are seeing a continuing rise in nurses and midwives leaving the register and our data is clear that this is being driven by both UK and EU registrants.
"These figures continue to highlight the major challenges faced by the UK's health and care sectors around the recruitment and retention of staff.
"Nurses and midwives work incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. Those responsible for workforce matters will no doubt respond to what these trends are showing."
The Unite union said the increasing number of nurses leaving the health service should be "the final wake-up" call for chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of the upcoming budget.
Unite head of health Sarah Carpenter said: "The disturbing NMC findings are further evidence, if more were needed, that the NHS needs a massive cash injection, with a large tranche earmarked for a generous pay rise for staff.
"The NHS has been buffeted by austerity-driven cuts and services are at breaking point – since 2010 the majority of the NHS workforce has seen their pay packets eroded by at least 14% in real terms.
Responding to the figures, the Department of Health said there are 3,193 more EU nationals working in the NHS than at the time of the referendum in June 2016.
A spokesperson said: "These figures represent a mere 0.2% decrease in the 689, 738 nurses and midwives currently registered with the NMC and there are in fact more nurses on our wards since last year.
"We are fully committed to supporting hardworking NHS staff through helping them to balance work-life commitments and we are also ensuring the NHS has the staff it needs for the future through our 25% increase in nurse training places – the biggest in the history of the NHS."
"This is not the time for the chancellor to indulge in clever accounting tricks linked to so-called 'productivity' savings. This is the final wake-up call on NHS pay to staunch the rapidly increasing exodus of highly skilled staff."