Brexit and the NHS: Information and Advice for EU and EEA Nationals

Ever since the result of the referendum came through, we’ve had countless concerned phone calls and emails about what Brexit means for the many EU migrants in this country working for the NHS. What does the future hold for anyone wanting to come over and be a part of our healthcare industry?

At Hylton Potts, we’re happy to take your queries all day long – as the experts, that’s what we’re here for. However, we thought we’d take some time in today’s blog post to go over a few of the essential facts, and allay any of those immediate worries that people have before they make contact with us.

First and foremost, we must look at the immediate future. Every day now, there seems to be a headline about how other members of the EU want us to get the whole process started. However, without a Prime Minister willing to take the job, the most important fact to bear in mind here is that Article 50 can only be initiated by the British Government themselves; it cannot be started by any other country, so any fears over this being forced are unfounded.

This means that for a minimum of two years, the ability for EU and EEA Nationals who wish to come to the UK and work in the NHS will still be able to do so under the EC Rights Directive. So, there is no immediate need to panic if the UK is where you feel you want to kick-start your career as a medical professional.

If you’re already a part of the NHS in the UK, or if you’re in the process of planning a move to the UK to work, of course there will be an element of uncertainty. However, we’re here to tell you exactly why the NHS needs you, and why it’s highly unlikely that drastic changes will be made to the recruiting system.

Why the NHS needs EU and EEA Nationals

According to the latest HSCIC statistics almost 10,000 doctors, over 18,000 nurses, and over 10,000 support staff have been able to travel to the UK to work within our healthcare system from the EEA area. That’s about 9% of all doctors and 6% of all nurses. These figures alone show just how crucial migrants are to the NHS, but they also play a key part in keeping UK services running amidst government failures with training policy.

For example, cuts to nursing bursaries and grants for junior doctors have recently made the headlines as reasons why our healthcare systems are becoming increasingly reliant upon EU nationals to help plug the enlarging gaps. There have also been increasing demands upon the NHS in the face of an aging population, as the number of people aged over 85 in the UK is projected to increase from 1.4 million to 2.4 million by 2027, and to 3.6 million by 2037.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why our NHS is facing staff shortages, and it is widely acknowledged that vastly cutting the number of migrants that could enter the country, or indeed forcing migrants who already live and work in the UK healthcare industry to leave, would be detrimental. Therefore, the likelihood with any changes in policy would be that this would be taken into consideration.

Why EU migrants should feel safe coming to work in the NHS

There are many reasons why EU migrants should continue to be welcomed into this country, and into the NHS positions that so desperately need their skills. However, there are also several reasons why those people who already live and work in the UK should not feel concerned about their future.

Firstly, those shortages and gaps in service discussed above will all need to be plugged, and therefore any cabinet coming into office will need to bear this in mind. Secondly, there is also the fact that, due to the Vienna Convention of 1969, those of EU nationality who are currently in the UK will still be able to live in Britain and work as they always have.

Then there are the external factors that would warrant anyone living in the UK already being far more valuable to the NHS. For example, most recruitment from outside the EU (including nurses) would have to account for an additional month to conduct a ‘Resident Labour Market Test’.

This test provides evidence that no appropriate workers could be hired domestically for the position. Given the delay and difficulty in the recruiting process this would cause, and given the emergency nature of healthcare, all migrants who are currently trained and already working would be an asset, as ever, to every workforce.

And most importantly…

While access to the ‘Single Market’ is something that the new government hopes to negotiate to maintain freedom of movement, one thing is clear: we cannot afford to replace the thousands of doctors and nurses working here from the EU. While countries such as Germany, Italy and France are all calling on us to get the process started imminently, as we stated at the beginning of this post, the fact remains that nothing will be triggered until a new Prime Minister and cabinet has been put in place.

As the situation currently stands, David Cameron has suggested that he will not start the proceedings himself, and plans to leave as Prime Minister by 2nd September 2016. Of course, it is then unlikely that Article 50 will be triggered until they have settled into that new role and decided upon the best course of action for the country.

Crucially, this means that the UK is still under the directive of the EU until two years after the process starts, so there is no initial cause for concern for anyone wanting to move to the UK. If you’re wanting to move to the UK to join the NHS, or if you’re already living and working here but would like to know more about your personal circumstances, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or via email at [email protected].

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