Last year’s EU Referendum sent shockwaves through every NHS trust in the UK. And to put it simply, that’s because those working for the NHS know, first-hand, how essential EU staff are to the continued success of our national health service.
One year on from that announcement, it would be easy to assume that the forecast is gloomy for EU workers wishing to work in the UK– that’s certainly the picture being painted by the majority of media outlets. But our experience, as one of the UK’s leading recruiters of EU-based health and social care professionals, has been entirely different. We’ve seen a year of continued dependence on EU workers and continued applications from EU workers.

From our perspective, the UK’s doors are still wide open.

Applications from EU workers have gone up – as have vacancy rates

One key HCL statistic sums up how the reality of the current situation is not being fairly reflected in mainstream media: applications within many of our divisions have gone up since Brexit, not down. In fact, for our international recruitment team, applications have gone up by 10.7%. Meanwhile, our interview-to-offer rate for Italian staff, for example, remains very high at 85%. High numbers, and high calibre.

This sits in direct contrast to a raft of media coverage stating that EU nurses no longer want to work in the UK. The fact is they do, and for good reason – vacancy rates are soaring.

Here’s just a glimpse. Between 2013 and 2015 there was a 50% increase in nursing vacancies, and the current vacancy rate for nurses is 9% – and growing. A recent report suggests the NHS is short of at least 5000 family doctors. And the average vacancy rate across all disciplines lies between 5 and 10%, compared to figures of between 2 and 3% for the wider economy.
Our stats reflect a fairly clear picture: the jobs are there, and EU workers continue to apply for them.

If there is a problem, it’s IELTS rather than Brexit

We’ve recently compiled a detailed whitepaper on how IELTS banding is preventing a huge number of qualified EU workers from coming to the UK.

The whitepaper, written in conjunction with language testing experts and several senior NHS trust heads, confirmed that huge numbers of healthcare professionals across the EU are in limbo – unable to score the required level 7, so unable to join the NHS. The study also confirmed that the current banding is unjustifiably tough.

The various trust representatives were emphatic with their views too: Brexit was not impacting their recruitment of EU staff. Indeed, many were frustrated that a false impression was being given by the media.

Brexit doesn’t yet mean Brexit

It’s also very easy to forget that Brexit hasn’t yet begun. Nothing has changed, and the UK’s exit from the EU won’t happen until Spring 2019 at the earliest.

Theresa May may not have yet guaranteed the rights of EU citizens in the UK, but in many ways, the NHS has. The message from Jeremy Hunt and every recruiter in the UK is loud and clear: we need you.

The more than 110,000 EU-based health and social care staff are too essential to frontline care to be ignored. 10% of our doctors are from other EU countries, as are 20,000 of our nurses. We’d be lost without them, and the vacancies keep on coming.

So, ignore what the papers might be saying. We, a leading healthcare recruiter, can say with certainty that we continue to see EU applicants as a vital means of achieving our goal of keeping Britain healthy.

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