Brexit effect blamed as growing number of nurses leave QA Hospital

Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth
Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth

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THE number of nurses from countries in the European Union leaving Queen Alexandra Hospital has almost tripled in three years.

Figures from the BBC Local News Partnership show Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Cosham facility, lost 14 per cent of its EU workforce in 2016/17.

We have seen nurses from countries in the EU leave their jobs with us.

Peter Mellor

This is almost triple the five per cent figure for 2014/15 and is higher than the 2015/16 figure which was 10 per cent.

The data also looked at the number of staff from the EU joining QA Hospital and found, since 2014/15 it has decreased by eight per cent.

The figure for EU nationals joining the trust went from 24 per cent three years ago to 15 per cent in 2015/16. It then rose slightly to 16 per cent in 2016/17.

At a recent Portsmouth health overview and scrutiny panel (Hosp), members asked about how Brexit had affected staffing levels at QA Hospital.

Speaking at the meeting Peter Mellor, director of corporate affairs and business development at the trust, said: ‘We have seen nurses from countries in the EU leave their jobs with us.

‘They fear they will be told to leave even though we have assured them they have a contract with us which we will honour.

‘But they are choosing to go to London where they can earn more money and are trying to earn as much as they can before they fear they might have to leave England.

‘Brexit has made an impact.’

But Mr Mellor also said Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is looking to other countries such as the Philippines for nurses.

As part of the scheme, the first group of Filipino nurses arrived at QA Hospital last month.

The investigation by the BBC Local News Partnership revealed NHS employers do think the EU referendum vote to leave had created ‘significant uncertainty’ for the 58,000 EU nationals working in the health service.

And the NHS Confederation has warned that if a significant proportion leave, the sustainability of quality services would be jeopardised.

Nationally, the data showed in the last full year before the referendum, December 2014 to December 2015, there were 7,535 EU nationals who left NHS jobs.

That meant they made up five per cent of all NHS workers leaving their jobs.

The following year, they accounted for six per cent of all leavers and in the first six months of this year, they made up seven per cent.

As previously reported in The News, QA Hospital has spent £11m this year on agency nurses and doctors.

They have paid more than £1m every month to plug gaps in their staffing and ensure patient safety.