New figures have revealed a 96% drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to practise in the UK since July last year.

The figures were obtained by the Health Foundation from a Freedom of Information request to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). They show that after a sharp decline from a high of 1,304 in July last year to 344 two months later in September, numbers have continued to fall, with just 46 EU nurse registrants in April this year.

The UK has repeatedly used international recruitment as a stop gap measure to fill staffing shortages, and since 2008 the majority of international nurses registering in the UK have come from within the EU.

But the fall in EU registrants suggests that a more sustainable long-term approach to workforce planning is urgently needed.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation said: ‘The recruitment and retention of nurses is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care, with a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone.

‘The drop in EU nurses registering to work in the UK could not be more stark – just 46 registered to work in the UK in April. Without EU nurses it will be even harder for the NHS and other employers to find the staff they need to provide safe patient care. The findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and health service leaders.

‘Clearly action is needed to offset any further loss of EU nursing staff in the near future. But the overall shortage of 30,000 nurses is not a shortage caused by the Brexit vote. The chronic shortage of nurses is the result of  years of short-term planning and cuts to training places. A sustainable, long-term approach to workforce planning is desperately needed.’

These figures are released ahead of a Health Foundation report due to be published later this year looking at the health and social care workforce. The Health Foundation’s pre-election briefing on workforce also set out the challenges facing the health and social care sector in this area.

Charts

New international nurse registrants - the number of EU and non-EU nurse registranets in the UK from 1990/91 to 2016/17

Share of new nurse registrations, Annual percentage of new nurse registrants in the UK from UK and international sources, 1990/91 to 2016/17

New nurse registrants from the EU, total number of EU nurse registrants in the UK from January 2016 to April 2017

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Media contact

Jack Cutforth
jack.cutforth@health.org.uk
0207 664 4623

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