Boris Johnson’s pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses to the NHS has been questioned after the numbers from the EU fell again.
The pledge was a key election promise, and one Johnson continues to claim is a commitment of the government.
But data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council shows the number of nurses and midwives coming from the European Economic Area (EEA) that are eligible to work in the UK continues to fall, and has done consecutively for three years.
The total is now 31,385 – down from 38,024 in 2016-17, and a 5% drop based on figures from last year.
Just 913 people from the EEA joined the register last year, with a slowdown in numbers arriving from Romania, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland.
Have your say
Send your letters for publication to The New European by emailing email@example.com and pick up an edition each Thursday for more comment and analysis. Find your nearest stockist here or subscribe to a print or digital edition for just £13. You can also join our readers' Facebook group to keep the discussion and debate going with thousands of fellow pro-Europeans.
But there has been a jump in numbers of nurses and midwives coming from outside Europe, with growth from the Philippines and India.
The number on the register now stands at 716,607 – jumping by 18,370 in the last year – the single biggest increase in the total.
Andrea Sutcliffe, the NMC’s chief executive, said: ‘While the increased figures from the UK and overseas are very welcome for everyone working in and using health and care services, there are potential stormy waters ahead.
‘As a result of the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, we may no longer be able to rely on the flow of professionals joining our register from overseas in the same way. Going forwards, the significant growth we’ve seen recently may not be sustained.’
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, welcomed the overall figures, but warned ‘these numbers are a drop in the ocean compared to what the NHS needs in the longer term, as the government recognised when it committed to recruit 50,000 more nurses by the next election’.