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Health staff worried about EU colleagues post-Brexit

By David Young, PA

Health care staff in Northern Ireland are uncertain and concerned about the ability to retain and hire EU colleagues post-Brexit.

Nurses and doctors who live across the Irish border but currently work in the region are "anxious" and want reassurance, the findings of a workforce engagement exercise found.

The feedback was among the key findings of an initiative undertaken to help inform a new strategy for health care staff in Northern Ireland.

The plan to modernise workplace policies and procedures is designed to accompany the ongoing programme of reform of health service delivery in Northern Ireland.

The Workforce Strategy 2026: Delivering for Our People, which was launched on Monday, has a stated ambition to address challenges with supply, recruitment and retention of staff.

In regard to Brexit, one of the strategy's objectives is: "Take account of and plan for the workforce implications arising from the UK's exit from the EU and the subsequent implications for the EU/EEA (European Economic Area) and non-EU/EEA workforce."

The Department of Health strategy's launch came as it was confirmed how £15m of a £100m pot already allocated for health service transformation in 2018/19 will be spent.

Around £5m will be directed towards the nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professional workforce.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said: "Health and social care colleagues work tirelessly to provide the care needed by patients and other service users.

"The system could not run without the skill, dedication and commitment of our talented, hard-working colleagues, across all levels.

"We therefore owe it to them, and to the people of Northern Ireland, to address the workforce issues that need to be fixed."

More than 122,000 people work in health and social care in Northern Ireland.

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