According to a recent report from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), there’s a good chance that Brexit will place even more strain on an already deficient nursing workforce in the UK. The study, which was commissioned by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), found that the NHS gets a significant portion of its nurses from countries like Portugal, Spain, and Ireland, with nurses from the EU accounting for about 5% of the workforce and those from all outside countries combined accounting for about 12%. Leaving the EU has created a number of obstacles and uncertainties for these nurses, many of whom may choose to return to their home countries due to no longer being employable in the UK.
1 in 3 Nurses in The UK Will Retire Within the Next 10 Years
Another factor that is set to exacerbate the problem is the fact that more than 30% of the currently active nurses in the UK will be retiring within the next ten years, and currently there aren’t enough nursing students and younger co-workers to fill all of the empty openings that will be popping up. Under previous political circumstances, we would expect this gap to be filled by nurses migrating from nearby countries, but with Brexit damaging such relations, it seems likely that the end result will be a severe nursing shortage within the next 5-10 years. To put that into perspective, someone earning a doctorate in nursing practice online would be graduating in 4-6 years, putting them in an ideal position to land a job in almost any region in the country just as demand is peaking.
Urgent Action and Workforce Planning Needed
General secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Janet Davies, has stated that urgent action will need to be taken to prevent a dire nursing shortage that will result in a significant impact on the quality of healthcare in the UK. She’s also expressed the opinion that this was a completely preventable problem that has been brought about by a substantial lack of workforce planning combined with unwise cuts to student nurse commission budgets. There’s also the concern that the problem could become even worse with the UK government currently making additional efforts to cut student nurse funding despite warnings that this will have a detrimental effect on the supply of graduate nurses.
Will Government Heed MACs Recommendations?
After years of shortsighted decision making, it will be interesting to see if the government reacts swiftly enough to prevent or at least mitigate the coming nursing shortage crisis. The MAC has published a report making numerous recommendations that have not yet been acted upon, including a request for the government to grant 15,000 visas to non-EU nurses over the next three years in order to fill the positions that are going to be left open in the short-term. We can’t afford to wait until the next generation of nurses earn their DNP online to begin addressing this issue.
Not a Short-term Problem
While short-terms steps are needed to at least reduce the impact of the shortage, this appears to be a problem that will continue to surface for until the current policies are in place.