3 years on: How has Brexit impacted the healthcare workforce

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01 February 2023

3 years on: How has Brexit impacted the healthcare workforce

It’s been three years since the UK formally ceased to be a member state of the EU. In this blog post we investigate the effects this has had on the wider health and social care workforce and whether there are any green shoots that can be taken from a decision that has divided a nation.

What do we know?

A recent poll concluded that 58.5% of voters now believe that UK would be better off in the EU versus 41.5% who feel that we’re better off outside. This is a seismic shift since the 2016 vote which saw a 52% v 48% majority for leaving.

Interestingly, many of those who voted in favour of leaving the EU single market, believed it would be bad for the economy, but good for health a social care. However, with the promises of extra funding for the NHS (£350m per week) being proven untrue – and the health and care sectors struggling to meet demand post pandemic, public perceptions have shifted.

However, this recent poll comes too late for many EU nationals who left the UK following the referendum due to both uncertainty over legislation as well as a general feeling of being unwelcome.

The numbers are sketchy at best

brexit impacted healthcare

On the face of it, there appears to be more EU nationals working in the NHS than before the referendum. In fact, between 2016 and 2022, the number of EU nationals working in the NHS rose from 58,702 to 70,735. However, these numbers aren’t entirely a direct correlation, since reporting in that period has improved, with ‘unknown nationalities’ decreasing from 89,545 to 32,109.

Furthermore, since the care sector relies much more on workers from overseas, the impact of Brexit was going to hit harder. Three years on from the referendum and we’re at a point where the NHS has a vacancy rate of 9.7% and adult social care saw an increase in vacancies from 55,000 in 2021, to 165,000 in 2022.

There’s a workforce crisis, but what can be done…

Sunlit uplands, for 47% at least

Well, in February 2022, care workers were added to the shortage occupation list under the health and care worker visa route. This meant that anyone who met the salary threshold of £20,480 and had a licensed sponsor could come to UK and work in a care role.

To note, 47% of care worker roles were paid above this threshold in 2022.

Green shoots

It’s important to remember that public health and social care funding and policy making is decided at a parliamentary level. Therefore, whilst the UK might not be looking to re-join the EU single market anytime soon – there’s still plenty that can be done to support the health and social care workforce (if government wants to).

In the short term, this could mean revision to the salary threshold for care workers willing to relocate to the UK. Alternatively, funding could be re-distributed from one area of the economy to health and social care to ensure that sufficient home-grown talent is trained, whilst supporting recruitment of those outside of the EU to fill the growing number of vacancies.

Making the most of what you have…

Understaffing is commonplace across health and social care. But there are measures you can take which will help you make the most of your current workforce. Better / automated scheduling and prioritising the fill of critical shifts first are just two ways that the team here at RotaMaster can help your healthcare organisation navigate this difficult landscape.

Join our webinar on 21 February 2023, where we’ll discuss How to maximise fill rates when short staffed.

Register for our webinar: How to maximise fill rates when short staffed.

Ready to find out more?

Book a demo with one of our team today.

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