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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Government blames 96% fall in EU nurses registering for UK work on language test

Written by Trevor Mason

A big drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK has been blamed by the Government on new language tests rather than Brexit.

Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy (pictured) said ministers were aware of the 96% fall in EU-trained nurses applying to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

But he said the health department's assessment suggested "this is largely a consequence of the NMC introducing language testing rather than the vote to leave the EU".

He said the number of European nurses working in the NHS increased by more than 400 between June 2016 and March 2017.

Labour spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said the 96% drop came on top of a shortage of thousands of nurses in the NHS.

He said it was quite clear the fall was to do with "the Government's obsession with migration control at the expense of our public services and the imposition of a pay cap on nurses and other NHS staff".

Lord Hunt said as ministers had found a billion pounds to "bung the DUP," why couldn't they find the money to get rid of the cap on nurses pay and "pay them what they deserve".

Lord O'Shaughnessy said language testing was introduced in November 2016.

There had been no "significant drop-off" in applications from EU countries after Brexit and before that point but a "big downturn in applications" afterwards.

He said ministers valued the work of nurses from abroad. "We want them to stay and have offered a generous package to allow them to do so."

Liberal Democrat Baroness Walmsley said the health department's own modelling predicted a shortage of 14,000 nurses by 2026.

"What does the Government propose to do to avoid the NHS becoming unsafe because of these nursing shortages given that already some nurses are being asked to stay on at the end of 12-hour shifts to fill gaps in the roster," she asked.

Lord O'Shaughnessy said there had been an increase of nearly 5,000 in nurses and health visitors since 2010 and more were needed.

"We aren't complacent about the situation," he told peers at question time.

"There are a number of programmes in train to fill the gap you have identified."

Independent crossbencher Baroness Watkins of Tavistock , a professor or nursing, said nurses from the EU felt unwelcome and housing was almost impossible to find.

She said salaries had stagnated due to the fall in the pound and morale was so poor in some parts of the NHS, people would rather remain in their own countries.

The minister said nurses from the EU were valued as much as any other worker in the health service and not unwelcome.

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