Brexit appears to be having a big impact on the healthcare sector, indicated by recent figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showing a steep decline in EU nurses and midwives wanting to work in the UK.

The NMC received 2,700 fewer registrations than the previous year. The rise in the number of EU nurses leaving the NMC register is 57% greater than number of UK-trained staff leaving the register.

Overall decrease in the number of nurses

It is vital to note that the NHS is facing significant decrease of numbers of all foreign nurses.

Union leaders believe the UK will struggle to fill the positions because, in addition, the Government has removed bursaries for nursing degrees and introduced fees.

EU nurses are also deterred by the English language requirement, which was introduced in the summer 2016, the same time as the EU referendum. However, nurses who require Tier 2 of the Point Based System visa face difficulties in passing the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). This tests clinical skills performance and competence in skills such as communication, medical procedures, manipulation techniques and others.

The Government’s response

The Department of Health is underplaying the importance of the decrease of nurses, and the Government keeps reassuring all EU nationals that they would ‘remain a valued part of the workforce’. But we are finding that opinion of HR management within the NHS sector differs.

Our Immigration team receives an increasing number of queries relating to NMC registration and issues surrounding the OSCE process. The Home Office ruthlessly curtails leave of any nurse who is not able to pass the OSCE within their imposed and very tight limit.

The Home Office is positioning the NHS in an impossible situation and especially where nurses fail to complete their OSCE examination within the time limit. The Home Office may be satisfied it is in control of immigration, but in reality, the future of NHS is dark.