New Thinktank Questions NHS Stability in Post-Brexit Britain


We handle dozens of enquiries every day from EU citizens who want to come over to work within the NHS system. Since Brexit, a lot of those enquiries have been concerned about whether or not they would be welcome in the UK, if the NHS is still accepting EU workers and so on.

Let us start by saying that EU citizens are a back-bone within the British economy and will always be welcome, and the NHS in particular is certainly still accepting applications from dedicated medical professionals. It’s unsurprising to us that these questions still arise, given the amount of media attention that the subject seems to receive.

However, recently it has been in the limelight for all the right reasons, as a new government think-tank has suggested that EU Citizens working in the NHS should be offered better terms to take up citizenship within the UK.

“All EU nationals who work for the NHS should be eligible to apply for British citizenship”

This was the bold statement issued by a spokesman for a report published a few weeks ago, which claimed that the NHS would “collapse” if left without the 57,000 employees from the European Union. The report was created by the think-tank, Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), who then urged the government to do as much as possible to prevent the valuable 5% of the workforce that EU members represent, from leaving the country. In short, the suggestion was for automatic British citizenship.

For the many doctors, nurses and other medical professionals living in this country who are originally from the EU, this is welcomed news that their skills and services are valued within the UK. The report’s findings also coincided with the release of the first government migration statistics since Brexit, which revealed a 14% increase EU national applications for British citizenship over the past year.

IPPR research fellow, Chris Murray, told the press: “The 14% rise in applications for [British] citizenship is a sign that people are feeling uncertain. People rightly think about the uncertainties before they sign contracts, put their children in school, make investments and take on extra employees.

“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 organized 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.

“Britain can ill afford to lose the talents of many EU migrants who have made Britain their home. EU migrants who are already here should get indefinite leave to remain. In particular, EU NHS workers should get the automatic right to citizenship. If they left, it would be a crisis for the NHS.”

Suggestions and impacts

The report didn’t stop at the suggestion of automatic citizenship either, continuing to make a number of other recommendations, including:

  • the waiving of the £1,200 citizenship fee for NHS workers
  • instead of offering a “particularly generous citizenship offer”, to persuade them to remain in the U.K
  • for those EU nationals who have lived in the UK for more than six years, and the children of EU nationals who have been educated here, to be granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain
  • for highly-skilled migrants with globally competitive skills to be offered a fast-track to citizenship in exchange for paying a higher fee
  • those migrants who are on low wages should be offered the chance to acquire citizenship with the help of an interest-free government loan, similar to student loans.

According to further articles, the think-tank also discovered that migrants account for two million of the 13 million low-skilled workers in Britain – or in other words, one in every seven. With regard to their impact on society, the report stated that those costs, often focused in particular geographical locations, include:

  • rapidly changing populations with possible implications for cohesion and integration
  • extra pressure on housing, education, health and transport services
  • a small negative impact on wages of low-paid workers
  • serious exploitation of some migrants due to the inadequate enforcement of minimum labour standards

The conclusion

What’s interesting about these reports is that the focus within the media towards EU migrants has clearly seen a shift for the better. People are beginning to realise the vital role that EU workers play within the NHS, and how they will only be needed more and more, as the over-demand for services continues to increase.

This is also clearly a view backed by the British public, according to a recent poll by the British Future think-tank. The results showed that more than eight out of 10 people in the UK believe EU migrants already living in Britain should be allowed to remain after Brexit, including 77% of Leave voters.

In addition to this, only 12% want to cut the number of highly-skilled workers migrating to Britain, and 46% would like to see an increase.

Besides, although we are still very much navigating through uncertain waters at the moment, over the next two years UK law will remain the same in terms of EU migration, and those wishing to travel here for better working opportunities should not be dissuaded.

More specifically, rather than fearing the unknown with Brexit, EU Citizens who are considering moving to the UK to take up roles in the NHS should still continue to do so, especially if they have plans to live in the UK beyond the two years it will take to officially break away.

We hope that today’s post has eased some of your concerns, and given you cause for thinking seriously about a move to the UK. If you’re thinking about joining the NHS and you’d like to know more, our dedicated legal professionals are always on hand to help you, so call us on 020 7381 8111, or via email at [email protected]

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