Registered Nurses from the European Union (EU Referendum)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government how many nurses from the rest of the European Union have registered to work in Scotland since the EU referendum was held, in light of a recent report suggesting that there has been a 96 per cent decline in the United Kingdom as a whole. (S5O-01137)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

It is important to note that, despite the huge drop that the member has referred to in registrations across the UK as a whole, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has actually recorded an increase over the year to May 2017 of approximately 7.4 per cent in the number of EU-trained nurses registered to an address in Scotland.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary might be aware that, as the nursing establishment has expanded following the application of workforce planning tools, the boards have a number of vacancies to fill. Does she therefore agree that losing the option of freely recruiting nurses from elsewhere in the EU will result in great strains on the national health service and might impact on patient services across the region and particularly in my Midlothian North and Musselburgh constituency?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I very much agree with the member. The Health Foundation figures that the member has referred to show a 96 per cent drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to practise in the UK as a whole since July last year, and it is extremely concerning that only 46 EU nurses registered in April. The point is that, without EU nurses, it will be even harder for the NHS and social care providers to find the staff that they need to provide our services. That is another negative consequence of a hard Brexit, which is, of course, something that we need to avoid.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

I remind the cabinet secretary that nurse shortages existed for a long time before the EU referendum. In fact, when she was health secretary, the First Minister cut nurse training places by a fifth. Does the cabinet secretary therefore accept that the current nurse shortages in Scotland are a result of that decision?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

What Dean Lockhart has not acknowledged is the fact that we have more qualified nurses and midwives than we had previously; indeed, under this Government, the number has increased by more than 2,700 whole-time equivalents.

Of course, there is more to be done, which is why, this year, we have seen the fifth successive rise in student nursing and midwifery intakes to bring us closer to delivering our commitment to creating 1,000 extra nursing and midwifery training places over the course of the Parliament. I would have thought that Dean Lockhart would welcome that.