Securing the rights of EU staff working in the NHS will be an early priority for the Government in Brexit negotiations, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Mr Hunt said the 150,000 EU nationals employed in health and social care were doing ‘an absolutely brilliant job’.
The health secretary said talks were likely to begin later this month – after a deal between the Conservative minority Government and the Northern Irish DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) was finalised and a Queen’s Speech put through Parliament.
Speaking at the NHS Confed 17 event in Liverpool Mr Hunt said: ‘We need them to stay, we want them to stay, they are part of our NHS family – it’s an early priority for this Government to secure the rights they have now. I want to reassure them and you that this is top of our list when the Brexit negotiations start later this month.’
It comes almost a year after the UK voted for Brexit with a majority of 52 per cent. Since the vote the BMA has repeatedly called for the future of EU staff jobs and lives to be resolved quickly.
Earlier this year BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘We are left with a profound and gnawing uncertainty – felt most acutely, of course, by our European colleagues, but also by the whole of a health service that would collapse without their contribution.
‘Around 22,000 GMC-registered doctors with a licence to practise obtained their qualifications from another EEA country, and more than half work in the NHS.’
Mr Hunt – recently appointed health secretary for the fourth time – told the conference that workforce problems would be the key issue to tackle during the coming year, suggesting that ‘supporting staff’, offering flexible routes in to work and being creative with new positions and job roles would help aid the problem.
He also said it was crucial to ensure staff see a career path in order to keep them in the health service.
He said: ‘We need to look at retention levels – they have fallen in recent years by about 2 per cent and we need to ask ourselves why that is.’
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