NHS has 70,000 fewer personnel than first estimated: Why the UK needs EU Nationals

In the wake of Brexit, we at Hylton-Potts have received many emails and phone calls from medical professionals wanting to know where they stand. Of course, as we have written in previous blog posts, we want to reassure all people from the industry that the UK is still very much in need of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, and never has this been clearer than with the release of the latest report on NHS staff figures.

We understand that these are turbulent times, and that many people have doubts about whether they should consider making a career move to the NHS. We like to make sure we always give the most up-to-date advice possible, so in today’s blog post, we’ll be informing you about what these latest figures mean, and why it’s further proof that the UK has never needed EU medical professionals more.

It was recently announced by the NHS’ own data collectors that the figures produced last December on the number of people staffing frontline services were incorrect. According to this new report, the NHS has almost 70,000 fewer personnel working for it than ministers had previously thought.

What are the facts?

According to reports by the Guardian, back in December, a total of 1,083,545 full time equivalent (FTE) health professionals were said to be working in the 228 NHS trusts, and 209 GP-led local clinical commissioning groups across England. However, it is the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) that have now proved those figures to be inaccurate, stating the true figure to be 1,014,218.

It has long been reported that the NHS is under huge strain from a surge in demand and a shortage of staff, and these figures have only proved how dire the situation really is. This new data means that the NHS had 69,317 fewer staff last September than the 1.1 million that ministers identified in December, including just over 15,000 fewer nurses, midwives and health visitors and 3,000 fewer doctors.

Heidi Alexander, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, told the press: “These figures reveal that the staffing crisis in the NHS is actually far worse than we had feared. Patients will rightly be concerned that there are 18,000 fewer doctors and nurses working in the NHS than ministers had thought only four months ago.” Shockingly, these staff shortages are said to affect at least some departments of almost every hospital, and many GP surgeries, across the UK.

How has this come about?

Following this breaking news, authorities were understandably quick to report on how this shortage staff within the NHS had come about. In a recent article by the BBC, MPs claimed that it was due to a combination of bad planning and several funding cuts.

The Public Accounts Committee published a report looking into clinical staff, doctors, nurses, midwives and ambulance crews. These account for more than 800,000 jobs, which is two-thirds of the entire NHS workforce, and it claimed that estimates suggested the NHS to be short in these areas by around 50,000 staff.

MPs scathingly blamed government leadership and national bodies, such as Health Education England, for these oversights in care. For example, they stated that NHS trusts in recent years have been given conflicting messages, being told to cut overheads to save money whilst investing in staff, creating the situation where the NHS had reduced the number of training posts available, and yet continues to struggle to retain staff.

The report claimed that the high level of spending on agency staff seen in recent years was “largely the consequence” of such bad planning.

Committee Chairman, Labour’s Meg Hillier, told the press there were “serious flaws” in the approach of government. She continued: “Front-line staff are the lifeblood of the service yet the supply of these staff in England is not keeping pace with demand. This poor workforce planning means that patients face the possibility of longer waiting times and a greater cost to the public purse.”

Royal College of Nursing general secretary, Janet Davies, added: “What we have seen so far is how short-term decisions and budget cuts lead to nothing but lowered standards of care which could so easily have been avoided.”

However, how does this situation tally with the words of the Department of Health spokesman, who claimed that: “By 2020, we expect to have 11,420 more doctors working in the NHS, coupled with 10,000 nursing, midwife and allied health professional training places through our reforms”? The answer lies in the many EU nationals who travel here each year.

What does this mean for EU nationals?

During the Brexit campaign, both the Leave and Remain supports used immigration and the NHS as pointers in their communications, although with no real cohesive argument. A recent Telegraph article pointed out how “as the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to do a better job training and looking after our own staff”, and this is something that has been a poignant issue since the UK voted to leave.

There are thousands of employees within the NHS that are from EU countries, and the rights of those individuals to remain in the UK must be protected. Clearly, the NHS is under severe strain due to many reasons including an aging population, and all of those doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will continue to be sourly needed.

Recent Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) data, for example, obtained by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), shows there are more EU-trained nurses registered to work in the UK than the number of nurses employed in the whole of Wales, as more than 9,000 EU nurses joined the NMC register in 2015/16 – a 21% increase on the year before.

While EU nationals may be concerned, but it’s fair to say that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer, so to speak, for those who came to the UK and already work within the NHS, and for those planning to do so over the next two years.

Don’t forget, during the next couple of years, negotiations will continue and the same EU laws will remain in place for those wishing to travel to the UK for work. Although the government has not made it 100% clear what the future holds, current law dictates that it is still very much the case that EU nationals will be welcomed with open arms into the NHS.

We hope that today’s post has given you something to think about if you’re considering a career move across Europe to the NHS. If you would like any more information, please 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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