Brexit. We all know it’s happening but do we know what its impact on the health and social care sector will be? In April, the Ipsos MORI/Economist Issues Index showed that Brexit and the NHS are the joint top issues for Britons with 48% saying Brexit alone was one of the most important concerns facing the UK. Almost a third (31%) of respondents said it was the single biggest issue.
With concerns remaining high, the health committee published its own report on the effect of Brexit on health and social care and it concluded that the government needs to put health concerns centre stage of the British negotiating priorities and that the Department of Health should form part of the negotiation committee.
EU workers vital to NHS
More than 60,000 people who work in the NHS and 90,000 in adult social care are from EU countries outside of the UK. As these figures show, Britain relies heavily on non-British workers. The health committee recognises the uncertainty that prevails amongst existing workers from outside of the UK and are keen to ensure that health and social care providers continue to benefit from and reward these workers.
Commenting on the situation, the chief executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, stated: ‘There are some areas where it is very difficult to recruit, certainly in social care. Often, people have come from the EU into those areas where it has been nearly impossible to attract candidates. For example, in some rural areas it is very difficult to attract people into social care, so EU nationals have gone into those services’.
It is yet to be seen if the morale of existing workers has been affected by the news of exiting the EU, however if we take the example of EU nurses, the number choosing to leave the NHS increased from 7.5% in 2015 to 10% in 2016.
Are domestically trained health and social care professionals the answer?
While there are some bleak forecasts when it comes to staffing, many remain hopeful. It has been said that the government should aim to make clinical staffing in England self-sufficient. Chief executive of Health Education England, Professor Ian Cumming, said that if the current number of nurse training applicants were an indication of the level of staffing in the future then we may be able to achieve this.
The UK is also the largest beneficiary of EU health research funds in Europe. This money supported health research in the UK between 2007 and 2013 with the aim being to improve patient care but at this point in time it is difficult to predict what impact Brexit could have on this funding. It must be noted that negotiations could last several years but new ways of working may be found. For example scientists and researchers may want to continue to collaborate regardless of the presence of EU funding.
What does Brexit mean for HR directors in health and social care?
The big concern for every HR director seems to be recruitment and retention of its staff to which the group of 34 health and care organisations called the Cavendish Coalition have set out three priorities for the government:
- Permanent leave to remain for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals in the health and social care sector
- Sufficient transitional arrangements for EEA nationals leave to remain
- An immigration system which supports health and social care provision
Uncertainty is in the air but there is one thing that Randstad Care like to remain certain on and that is the quality of candidates we present to our clients. Get in touch if you would like to work together to recruit and retain the candidates that will help you provide high quality care to your service users.