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EU Nurses coming to UK drops by 90% since Brexit: good or bad for Filipino RNs?

POEA job orders for RNs to UK show unlimited number of registered nurses needed. Why has it remained unfilled for so long?

Crispin ArandaOriginally posted on February 17, 2017; updated February 17, 2017

EU Nurses coming to UK drops by 90% since Brexit: good or bad for Filipino RNs?

Immigration Matters / Charles Kelly Blog - Saturday, February 11, 2017

The number of EU Nurses registering to work in Britain has fallen dramatically by 90% since the Brexit referendum according to new figures by the UK nursing regulator and reports in The Telegraph and BBC.

Last July, just after the referendum where 52% of British people voted to leave the European Union, 1,304 nurses joined the nursing and midwifery register to work in the UK, official figures show. Last month the number had plummeted to just 101 nurses.

(The POEA website on approved job orders in the United Kingdom shows unlimited job openings for Nurses that have remained unfilled for so long, illustrating the difficulty facing Philippine RNs particularly the need to take the practical exam in the U.K.  Not too many employers are willing to advance the costs of an RN applicant taking the final test in the U.K. without an assurance that the RN will pass the exam and complete the registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council UK.

Unless employers and/or their recruitment agencies find a way acceptable and fair to RNs and employers, the shortage will be here for a long time).

Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) also report more EU nurses deciding to stop working in the UK at a time when every hospital in the country reporting a shortage of nurses and many European countries, such as Romania, Spain and Portugal have high unemployment and little opportunity for newly qualified nurses.

The NMC register shows that 318 decided to leave almost double the number who left in  June 2016 when the referendum took place.

European nurses, like their non-EU counterparts, are now required to take a language test, which may partly account for the drop in registrations. There is also a fall in of overseas nurses requesting an application pack to register to work in the UK, with only 453 enquiries in December compared with 697 in July.

In January 2016, just under 3,700 EU nurses and midwives applied for an NMC application pack, but following the introductions of English language test the following month, the number fell to 861. EU nurses do not need to carry out competence tests, as their qualifications are accepted by the NMC.

The health sector and NHS depends on overseas workers and in 2015/16, 9,388 overseas nurses and midwives registered to come work in the UK.

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith, said: “This is the first sign of a change following the EU referendum and it is our responsibility as the regulator to share these figures with the public.”

She said it was too early to “definitively” link the trends to Brexit.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “If this is the beginning of a long-term drop in the number of nurses coming to the UK from other parts of the EU, that’s a serious concern at a time when we’re already facing a crisis in nurse staffing numbers.”

“With 24,000 nursing vacancies across the UK, the NHS could not cope without the contribution from EU nurses. Without a guarantee that EU nationals working in the NHS can remain, it will be much harder to retain and recruit staff from the EU, and patient care will suffer as a result.”

The 2016 Immigration Act has introduced tough new measures for illegal migrants and visa overstayers, but the new £30,000 minimum salary for a work permit and settlement rules may be deterring overseas nurses,

Based on my own previous experience on recruitment trips to Romania, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria, the UK is not always the first choice for EU nurses.Many would choose Germany, France or Belgium, which offer excellent packages. Unlike non-EU nurses on work permits, EU nurses are more transient and prepared to return home after a period on working in the UK.


Charles Kelly is a registered UK Immigration Adviser and fellow immigrant advocated. UK immigration matters and articles on migration, studying or working in the UK, as well as other countries. UK immigration visa appeals, refusal of visas or leave to remain, deportation and removal from the UK and overstaying in the UK. Articles on setting up a business online and making money online.

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Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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