Worst nursing crisis in 20 years Picture: Filed

HOSPITALS are facing their worst nursing crisis in 20 years after a sudden drop in new arrivals from Europe, experts warn.

Numbers coming from the EU have ‘crashed’ by 96 per cent in nine months.

There were just 46 new registrations of European nurses in April – down from 1,304 in July last year. Academics said the situation was bleak while nursing leaders warned of ‘severe consequences’ for patients.

Hospitals have become increasingly reliant on European nurses in recent years because of a failure to train enough home-grown staff.

Many NHS trusts have targeted staff from Spain, Portugal and Italy, where job prospects are poor and salaries are significantly lower. But many overseas nurses are being deterred by the uncertainty following the Brexit vote and the introduction last June of tougher English language checks, say experts. The latest figures were obtained by the Health Foundation think-tank and published by the Health Service Journal as part of an ongoing analysis into the state of the NHS workforce.

Lead author Professor Jim Buchan, of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said: ‘It is a crash. Clearly something has happened in that period, and that something was most likely the Brexit vote and the uncertainty that has created. It has led to a change in the choices being made by individual EU nurses and midwives.

‘Non-EU nurse inflows have increased but not by enough to offset the decrease from EU nurses.’ Janet Davies, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘We rely on the contributions of EU staff and this drop... could have severe consequences for patients and their families.

‘Across our health service, from A&E to elderly care, this puts patients at serious risk.These figures should act as a wake-up call to the Government as they enter Brexit negotiations.’

In 2015/16, almost a third of nurses – some 9,389 – registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council came from the EU. There were 19,133 from the UK and 2,145 from outside Europe. The figures for 2016/17 have not yet been published but are likely to be much lower. Only last month the Royal College of Nursing warned that one in nine nursing posts were vacant, equivalent to 40,000 nurses.

Shadow health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Theresa May’s weak and unstable government has pushed NHS services to the brink and it is patients who will pay the price. Our health service has always relied on the contribution of overseas workers yet these staff are being forced out by this Government’s neglect and disregard.’

A Department of Health spokesman said more than 52,000 nurses were being trained, adding: ‘We understand the need to give valued NHS staff from the EU certainty – which is why we have made clear that the future of those EU nationals working in our health and care system should be a priority in Brexit negotiations.’

© Daily Mail