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5 January 2017 0 Comments
Posted in Medical Negligence, Opinion

Study suggests NHS catastrophe looms for post-Brexit Britain

Posted by , Senior Associate

Leading up to the EU referendum, the NHS was used by both sides of the debate to gain political leverage. The certainties of what will come to pass are still unclear, but as the country takes stock, a number of new studies are revealing an alarming truth; that the NHS is heading towards a potentially catastrophic shortfall in nursing.

The overall effects of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union are likely to cause a severe shortage of NHS nurses, new research suggests.

New analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies, commissioned by the Migration Advisory Committee, has found that as many as 20% of hospital nurses are from the European Economic Area, and Britain has recruited large numbers of nurses from countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland in recent years.

As well as nurses from these countries becoming reluctant to take jobs in the UK based on the uncertainty of Brexit, many of those already working within UK hospitals may leave due to feeling unwelcome following the referendum result.

Major uncertainties ahead

The reduction of EU nurses would only add to an already escalating staff shortage. According to the recently published ‘State of the Provider Sector Report’, only 27% of NHS Trust leaders are confident that they have the right staff numbers, quality and skill mix to deliver high quality care. Fewer still (22%) are confident about having the right staffing levels in six months’ time. Staff shortage concerns are now outweighing funding fears among NHS leadership, according to the Nursing Times.

Cut to Nursing in Uni

The Royal College of Nursing has described the UK as approaching a ‘perfect storm’ of an ageing population and growing need for healthcare coinciding with Brexit and the potential reduction in international nurses. There has also been a steep decline in nurses being trained at British universities in the wake of the Government’s recent decision to axe bursaries for students (applications to study nursing are down by 20% for next year).

London, the Thames Valley and the east of England are likely to be particularly affected by any reduction in non-UK nurse levels, as they tend to be the areas that most rely on them. 20.3% of nurses at the Royal Brompton and Harefield Specialist Heart and Lung Trust in London are from the EU, as are 18.4% of nurses at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

Where there are shortages in nursing staff, patients are put at risk. Nurses are a crucial part of delivering a safe service in hospitals, and unfortunately we see many cases where a shortage of staff leads to mistakes being made and avoidable harm being caused.

As medical negligence lawyers, my colleagues and I all too often come across patients who have suffered avoidable injuries as a result of hospital negligence or had to endure additional pain and suffering due to mistakes made by nurses, or mistakes that have been caused by a critical shortage of nursing staff.

It appears that the effects of Brexit, government cuts and increased workload will be extensive, and I hope that the situation is given the urgent attention that it so desperately requires.

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