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Number of non-European nurses falls dramatically

5 February 2016

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The number of nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) has fallen by more than 10,000 since 2004-5.

Specifically, there were 11,359 non-European nurses in 2004, compared to just 699 in 2014-15, according to the report Managing the supply of NHS clinical staff in England, released today by the National Audit Office.

“Some of this decline may have been due to tighter immigration rules for nurses between 2009 and 2015,” the report suggested.

This comes after the government released new rules in 2015 that people from outside the EEA must be earning £35,000 or more before they are allowed to stay in the UK after six years. 

However, the National Audit Office also found that this shortage was partly offset by a large rise in recruits from within the European Economic Area, which increased from 1,192 to 7,232 in the same period.

The group with the largest staff shortages in 2014 were nurses, midwives and health visitors (7.2%), followed by ambulance staff (7.0%), however all major clinical staff groups had shortages.

The percentage of nurses leaving the NHS rose significantly from 2010/11 to 2014/15, from 6.8% in 2010/11 to 9.2% in 2014/15.

In terms of workforce numbers, nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff are the largest component of the clinical NHS workforce. GPs and consultants account for 9% of the clinical workforce while practice nurses account for 8% (68,200 people).