Worrying number of unfilled NHS jobs could be worsened by Brexit

The number of unfilled NHS jobs in the North East has hit one in 55, The Journal reported last week. It was identified as being the joint-highest on record for our region.

This comes after recent reports stating the number of EU nurse applicants has seen a sharp drop of 96% since the Brexit vote. The unprecedented nursing crisis is now leaving some of the country’s biggest NHS trusts short of staff. According to the Royal College of Nursing, almost all the 50 largest trusts are not staffed with nurses to the planned levels, thus putting patients at risk.

An EU nurse working for the NHS took part in Jude and Paul’s recent campaign to show the human face of what Brexit means and voiced his concerns about the future of universal healthcare in the UK after it leaves the EU.

Joan Pons Laplana, who is originally from Spain but moved to the UK 17 years ago “with a suitcase full of hope”, explained how his life was affected by the referendum result: “My daughter, aged 11, came home crying from school the other day and when I asked her why she told me that another child told her that I was not welcome in the UK and that I would be thrown out very soon. My daughter was heartbroken and asked me if that was true. I could not in all honesty say no!

“Our lives have been put in limbo since Brexit. We are facing an uncertain and bleak future in the wake of the referendum result and the anguish and ongoing stress that this is causing to individuals and families is immense.

He added: “But what worries me is that now lots of EU nurses and doctors are starting to leave. The NHS is at breaking point.”

Along with showing different struggles many are now facing as a result of the referendum vote, this campaign launched by Labour MEPs for the North East, Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen, also brought to light how people are being driven out of the country due to the uncertainty surrounding citizens’ rights.

Paul Brannen MEP commented: “Shortage of staff in any area or industry is certainly not ideal, but when it comes to the profession responsible for saving people’s lives we must ask ourselves why and how we let it reach this point. The uncertainty of life and rights after Brexit for EU nationals has not only stalled NHS applications from other member states, but it is also driving away those who currently work here. The NHS is the Labour Party’s proudest achievement and the Tory government has done enough damage to it already – it must act now to avoid a Brexit-caused disaster.”

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP added: “The NHS is the world’s fifth largest employer, so the fact that one in 55 vacancies is currently unfilled is a major cause for concern. Nurses should be incentivised to come work in the UK in order to keep our hospitals fully staffed so they can offer proper care for all patients; instead this government seems to be doing everything it can to turn them away. I have said it before and will continue to do so, we urge that citizens’ rights – for both Brits and EU nationals – are put at the heart of Brexit negotiations, or the lack of clarity will take a toll on vital institutions such as the NHS.”

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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