Following the vote to leave the EU, a shortage of nurses in the UK will continue for years to come and could get worse, experts are predicting.
A new report from the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) has recommended the government grant up to 15,000 visas for nurses from outside the EU over the next three years.
The report highlighted evidence showing the NHS was already short of nurses – with one in 10 posts unfilled.
It stated that as one in three nurses are over the age of 50, the NHS faces an ageing workforce and warned the NHS will not have the nurses to fill the shortages.
Dr Rachel Marangozov, lead author of the report, said: “With one in three nurses due to retire in the next ten years, there is now an urgent question for the government around who will replace them.
“With the uncertainty around Brexit, the recruitment pipeline from the EU is likely to be hit hard, and even the additional 15,000 visas for international nurses recommended by the MAC will not be sufficient to plug this gap in the workforce. The government needs to act now to ensure that the UK has a domestic supply of nurses to fill these future posts. This will require adequate and sustained investment in workforce planning.”
The government has proposed plans to scrap maintenance bursaries for student nurses, claiming it would result in higher numbers to be recruited, which could further impact the current situation. If maintenance bursaries are abolished, we could see less young Britons going to university, and therefore providing a further concern for future shortages. The NHS Clinical Commissioners nursing forum said that it opposed the proposals and warned that no assessment has been made for the impact of leaving EU.
Janet Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This report makes sobering reading and it is clear that without urgent action the UK is heading for a major nursing shortage.
“Thanks to years of short-term thinking, the UK is completely unprepared to deal with the challenges posed by an ageing workforce, increasing demand and now the uncertainty caused by leaving the EU.”
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