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Retention of EU nationals of ‘critical’ importance

EU referendum
European union flag against parliament in Brussels

European NHS staff should be offered British citizenship to help avert a potential ‘collapse’ of the health service following Brexit.

This is the recommendation of a report published by think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, which has called for all EU staff working in the NHS to be made eligible for citizenship or indefinite right to remain.

The report, Becoming One of Us, argues that the continued ability of EU nationals to remain and work in the UK’s health service is of ‘critical’ importance.

It says: ‘There are around 55,000 EU nationals working in the English NHS, accounting for 5 per cent of its workforce; one in 10 of the UK’s registered doctors is an EU national.

‘Without them, the NHS would collapse. It is critical to public health that these workers do not seek jobs elsewhere.

‘All EU nationals who work for the NHS, or as locums in the NHS system, should be eligible to apply for British citizenship.

'This offer should be organised by the regional NHS and mental health trusts, who would be responsible for writing to all NHS staff who are EU nationals to inform them of their eligibility.’

It adds: ‘Those who do not wish to take up British citizenship would still be eligible for indefinite leave to remain as EU residents.’


Future uncertainty

The report suggests the voters’ decision to leave the EU has created uncertainty over the future of EU nationals living in the UK, which could in turn have a negative effect on key public services such as the NHS.

It adds that its recommendations on citizenship and indefinite leave be made in recognition of the contribution made by EU staff to health services, as well as to ensure the NHS remains able to function.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said the report’s recommendations starkly illustrate how safeguarding the ability of EU staff to continue to contribute to health and medicine was vital to the NHS and patients.

He said: ‘[Brexit] has sparked considerable confusion and uncertainty across our economy, society and public institutions, including the NHS.

‘One only has to consider the scale of existing financial and structural pressures to know that a lack of clarity over the status of our EU colleagues further hinders collective attempts to find a sustainable solution to the challenges facing the NHS.

‘The Government, and particularly those ministers who advocated our exit from the EU, have a responsibility to patients, doctors and the NHS in ensuring that the health service and its staff are prioritised in our exit negotiations.’

The BMA has produced a range of information and support and what impact this decision might have for doctors and the NHS.

Access the BMA’s guidance

Read the Institute of Public Policy Research report

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