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Embargoed: 00:01 Tuesday, 20 December, 2016

New analysis has found that Brexit and a growing population of over-85-year-olds could leave some NHS trusts in England short of nurses. The research, conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies, finds that there are vulnerabilities in the current NHS nursing workforce which may leave it exposed to some of the unintended consequences of Brexit.

The NHS in England is already short of nurses and the current nursing workforce is ageing, with one in three nurses projected to reach retirement age in the next ten years. The increased demand for nurses, caused by the post-Francis emphasis on safe staffing, is only adding to this pressure. On top of this, the restricted supply of nurses due to constrained budgets has led to too few nurse training places being commissioned and fewer nursing posts.

This perfect storm has led to increasing dependence among some NHS trusts on nurses from the EU. The paper identifies trusts in London and the South East of England as being particularly vulnerable to any post-Brexit disruption to this recruitment pipeline.

To compound these challenges, the research finds that some of these same NHS trusts are also vulnerable to higher-than-average growth in the over-85s, who are most likely to make intensive use of healthcare resources.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust all face very rapid population growth amongst the over-85s and have above-average employment of EU nurses, leaving them particularly vulnerable to nursing shortages following Brexit.

Dr Rachel Marangozov, lead author, commented:
‘The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit poses serious questions for NHS workforce planners, who need to act now to reduce the impact of ‘worst case’ scenarios. This will be particularly important given that the NHS already faces funding challenges, increasing demand for its services and a rapidly ageing nursing workforce.’


Notes to Editor

Some NHS trusts are particularly dependent on EU nurses. At the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, for example, 20 per cent of nurses were from the EU in 2015 and at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, 18 per cent of nurses were from the EU in 2015.

For interviews or further information, please contact Lorna Howes:
01273 763 414 or

Or Mark Jack:
O1273 763 435 or

The report

The report will be available to download from the Brexit Observatory:

Dr Rachel Marangozov

Dr Marangozov has over a decade of experience in researching labour market disadvantage among minority ethnic and migrant communities, both here in the UK and in other European Member States. She holds M. Phil and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge and holds a number of advisory positions and affiliations, including Directorship of MigrationWork CIC and Fellow at the London School of Economics.

The Institute for Employment Studies

The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK’s leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market, and HR policy and practice.

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IES tweets from @EmploymtStudies

IES Brexit Observatory

The IES Brexit Observatory aims to highlight data, analysis and informed debate about the employment effects of the UK's decision to leave the European Union. In addition to that originating from IES, it is collating content from other organisations which contributes to the debate through new analysis or by raising as yet unanswered questions.

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