How dependent is King George Hospital on staff from the European Union?
PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:33 25 October 2018
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More than one in 10 nurses and health visitors working at King George Hospital's NHS Trust are EU nationals, figures show.
Data compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) from NHS Digital data revealed that out of the 6,393 members of staff working at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust (BHRUT), 534 members of staff are from the EU, an equivalent of 8.4 per cent of the work force.
The BIJ also looked at a breakdown of the staff roles, for example 14.1pc of midwives working at BHRUT are from the EU.
With Brexit on the horizon, these figures might affect future recruitment from EU countries and staff retention.
Jason Seez, director of strategy and infrastructure at BHRUT said: “We are working on the understanding from government that our valued workforce of staff from across the European Union will have all their rights to live and work here maintained.
“The centre of our workforce strategy is to continue to ‘grow our own’ teams from our local community, and we have low numbers of EU staff compared with some other trusts, so we are confident the direct impacts will be minimal. However there might be broader issues across London which could impact us, if all the trusts are in competition for a smaller workforce.
“We continue to explore all the potential impacts from Brexit and to make plans accordingly.”
Cathy Turland, chief executive at Healthwatch Redbridge, said: “I do know that the NHS is facing a crisis, but is that the fault of Brexit - I don’t think so.
“However, I do think we need to address it and we have to be realistic about it.
“Most hospital trusts are in exactly the same predicament and I’m sure if you look at the figures you will probably find a high proportion of staff are from the EU.
“I don’t think it would have an impact necessarily, as long as it addresses the issue of getting work visas and work permits for those members of staff.
“I think everything is a risk and we don’t know what the future holds.
“Hospitals are doing everything they can to keep staff, but staff will have their own fears and views in whether they continue to work for local organisations.”
Following the Brexit referendum in 2016, out of 128,223 votes, 54pc of people in Redbridge voted to remain in the EU and 46pc voted to leave.
“I think it’s really clear that EU staff are absolutely critical to delivering essential services that our local hospitals need and there’s a real risk that the general disastrous handling of Brexit negotiations, will make it harder to recruit staff from the EU, or harder to retain staff,” said Ilford North MP, Wes Streeting. “Generally, that we are seeing the closure of the chemotherapy unit due to staff shortages, I think it’s really important that people wake up to the damage that we have already seen.
“There’s also the disastrous impact of the government charging nurses for their tuition has had on nurse retention and recruitment.
“You’ve got a double whammy - given the government’s disastrous handling of the NHS and the government’s disastrous handling of Brexit - coming together to form a perfect storm.”
Andy Walker, who is part of the team campaigning to save King George’s Hospital A&E, said that he is glad BHRUT will be discussing Brexit at their next board meeting.
“The key thing is, we don’t want staff going because of Brexit, that would be disastrous,” said Andy.
“It would be reasonable for BHRUT or any employer to have a worst case scenario plan.
“[Brexit] is a substantial change and I believe that it’s at the top of [the government’s] priorities that staff members from the EU won’t have to leave.”
In response to the data collated by the BIJ, a Department for Health spokesman said the number of EU nationals working in the NHS had increased since the referendum.
He said the “NHS is preparing for all situations”, but stressed that EU staff in the NHS “will be among the first to be able to secure their settled status”.
For more information visit The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.