Britain’s shortage of nurses and midwives could increase by 20,000 by 2020 if trends following last year’s Brexit referendum continue, the Government has been warned.
The Open Britain campaign group for close ties with the EU said fewer than 300 European nurses a year would come to work in the UK if the drop in applications since last June’s referendum continues.
This compares to more than 7,000 a year in the period before the referendum, the campaigners said, citing Nursing and Midwifery Council and Health Foundation figures.
If that sort of drop continues, the shortfall in nurses and midwives could increase by 20,337 by 2020, Open Britain said.
The figures follow leaked Home Office proposals to clamp down on “low-skilled” immigration after Brexit, which ministers have insisted are not finalised.
Responding, Jon Skewes, director for policy at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “There are at least 1,400 midwives from other EU countries working in our NHS who make a vital contribution to our short-staffed and under pressure maternity services.
“Recent figures show that that number of EU midwives practising in the UK has plummeted as uncertainty around their status drives them away.
“England already has a generation long shortage of midwives with a current shortfall of 3,500 midwives and this is not sustainable.
“This is also about ensuring the future supply of the midwifery workforce and EU midwives are a vital part of that, and the Government must give them the right to remain in the UK.”
Labour MP and former shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said: “Brexit is in danger of leaving our NHS in intensive care.
“Hospitals the length and breadth of Britain are dependent on nurses and midwives who come from the EU to work in our National Health Service.
“We know that those numbers have fallen drastically since the referendum and it would not be surprising if the situation worsens because the Government ends up implementing its leaked draconian plans to slash immigration.
“Everyone who works in the NHS should be worried by the possible consequences of Brexit.”