Healthcare and medical research are being jeopardised by the uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the EU, health leaders have warned MPs.
Brexit is unsettling EU staff and has already begun to affect recruitment and retention efforts – and could undermine research bids in academic medicine, a hearing of the Commons health select committee heard on 21 February.
Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree Luciana Berger asked what effect the EU referendum result had had on staff morale and recruitment and retention in the health service.
In response, NHS Employers chief executive Daniel Mortimer said that uncertainty with the future immigration status of EU nationals was impacting hospitals and staff.
He said: ‘We have put a huge amount of effort into seeking to reassure our EU colleagues and to stress the value that we place on the contribution they are making.
‘Their biggest concern is the lack of certainty... and some do report some changed behaviour and some unwelcome behaviour from the public in terms of their interaction with the public.
‘We are seeing a decrease in recruitment, there are lots of factors going on there, some of it is because employers haven't been out to recruit because of the lack of certainty … some of it is because actually we’re not seeing the volume of applications we’ve previously seen.
‘A number [of hospitals] are reporting that the need for certainty and the lack of certainty at the moment is making them [EU staff] question whether they stay in the longer term.’
On the way out
Mr Mortimer’s comments come in the same week that a survey by the BMA found that four in 10 EU doctors were considering leaving the UK owing to Brexit.
BMA council chair Mark Porter has again called on the Government to help ensure the long-term stability of the NHS by clarifying the immigration status of EU nationals.
Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, David Lomas of the Association of UK University Hospitals said that, while there was uncertainty among staff, he remained confident that EU nationals would ultimately be given right to remain.
He added, however, that Brexit posed other challenges to the UK, with some academics having already been ‘bumped off’ research grant applications to the EU.
Care England chief executive Martin Green, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the impact on social care, pointing out that many parts of the country were reliant on EU staff, with UK applicants almost impossible to attract in some areas.
He said: ‘We've got to find some mechanism to maintain the staff that we have but also to recruit more staff because the problem that we have is that we have an increasingly greater number of people who need care and support.
‘It is very difficult to recruit the numbers we need from the UK population alone.’
NHS Employers and the BMA are members of The Cavendish Coalition – a group of health and social care organisations committed to promoting high-quality care.
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