Portsmouth council leader concerned about EU staff as Brexit looms large 

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'WITHOUT EU staff there would have been no-one to look after my mum.'

The leader of Portsmouth City Council has described EU nationals working for the authority as 'highly valued' and hoped Brexit will not 'push them out of jobs.'

Anti-Brexit protestors in Westminster, London. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit protestors in Westminster, London. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ahead of March 29 EU council staff are being urged to find out more about the EU settlement scheme that will allow them to work in Portsmouth after Brexit.

A special briefing held tomorrow (Feb 15) aims to provide staff with information and support through the transition.

For Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson EU staff are vital within all areas of Portsmouth. 'Eighteen months ago I spent my time caring for my mum in the last six months of her life,' he said. 'I could see just how many people from the EU were working in the hospitals and in care homes, and how important they were.

'If they weren't there who was going to look after her? We have to make sure we have got people to do that work, it is really important. We know that in Hampshire there are currently 18,000 vacancies in health and social care.

'That's gone up since the Brexit vote.'

Cllr Vernon-Jackson believed EU workers should continue to be supported after Brexit. He added: 'It's important to reassure these people who provide services that people in Portsmouth really need that we want them to stay and that they are valued.

'It's not as if there are people being pushed out of jobs it's more that we can't recruit people.

'EU nationals work in almost every job for the council, at different levels from accountants to care workers to surveyors working on the roads.'

Last year the government reported that 63,000 NHS staff in England were EU nationals, amounting to 5.6 per cent of all staff.

For Nicole Cornelius, director of human resources at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, all EU staff at Queen Alexandra and St Mary's Hospital were important.  'Our colleagues from overseas are an integral part of our NHS family in Portsmouth,' she said.

'They are vital in helping to ensure our patients receive the best possible care and we will do all we can to make sure they continue to feel welcome here.

'We are delighted to have this cultural mix of staff and are proud of their achievements. We have a responsibility to support all of our staff, and we value and appreciate everything our staff do every day for our patients.'

In 2015/16, 11 per cent of those joining the NHS were from the EU. This fell to 9 per cent in 2016/17, and in 2017/18 the figure was 7.9 per cent.

For nurses the percentage of EU joiners fell from 19 per cent in 2015/16 to 12.4 per cent in 2016/17, then further to 7.9 per cent in 2017/18.

The EU settlement scheme will open by March 30 with a deadline for applying of June 30, 2021. Last month prime minister Theresa May announced there would be no longer be a fee to apply.