The number of EU nurses coming to the UK has dropped by more than 90% since the Brexit vote, new figures reveal.
Data published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show the numbers of EU registered nurses fell to 101 in December from a high of 1,304 in July of last year.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar of the NMC, 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.
“While the number of EU trained nurses and midwives joining our register has reduced, I want to reassure the public that this is only an indication of change and it is too early to say definitively that it is due to any one reason.”
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary at the Royal College of Nursing, added: “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 simply could not cope without the contribution from EU nurses.
“We need a guarantee that EU nationals working in the NHS can remain. Without that, it will be much harder to retain and recruit staff from the EU, and patient care will suffer as a result.”
On a three-monthly basis the number of EU nurses joining the register for the first time dropped by three quarters between September and December to 204 compared with 820 in the year-earlier period.
As of the end of December 2016, there were 694,125 nurses on the NMC register.
Of these, 588,314 (84.8%) were trained in the UK, 38,661 (5.6%) in the EU/EEA and 67,150 (9.6%) from outside the EU/EEA.