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Fears for NHS as number of EU nurses drops by 87%

By Ella Pickover

Nursing vacancies are one of the "biggest threats" facing the health service, a leading think tank has warned.

One in 10 nursing posts is unfilled, the Health Foundation said.

A new poll also found that almost four in five British adults don't think the NHS has enough staff to provide current services.

It comes as new analysis by the think tank showed plummeting numbers of EU nurses coming to work in the UK.

Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealed that the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK has dropped by 87% from 6,382 in 2016/17 to 805 in 2017/18.

However, it said the number of new nurses coming from outside the EU had not compensated for the drastic drop. Most new EU registrants were coming from Ireland, when traditionally the highest numbers would come from Spain, Portugal, Romania and Italy, the Health Foundation said.

More than 34,000 nursing vacancies were reported in England between April and September 2017.

Meanwhile, a poll of more than 2,000 British adults found that 71% think the UK should continue to try to attract nurses from the European Union after the UK exits.

The majority of those surveyed (79%) do not believe the NHS has enough staff to provide current services.

"The NHS has a long and proud tradition of welcoming staff from across the world," said Anita Charlesworth, director at the Health Foundation.

"It's clear that the public value the vital contribution that nurses from abroad make and want to make sure that the NHS continues to welcome staff from other countries. The huge drop in the number of EU nurses coming to work in the NHS following the referendum is a stark reminder that we must never take overseas staff for granted.

"We must make sure that the health service is an attractive and welcoming place to work for both international and home trained staff."

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