THE impact of Brexit has added to the staffing crisis in the NHS, according to the findings of a new report.

Analysis by the Nuffield Foundation showed that the number of consultants, dentists and nurses recruited into the NHS from the EU has dropped dramatically since the UK left the trading bloc.

It found that this drop has contributed to the staffing crisis across the health and social care service and suggested that a weaker pound and disruptions to trade – both of which they link to Brexit – have meant that medicine shortages are becoming more frequent.

The number of nurses and health visitors from the EU registered in the UK plummeted by nearly 30% between September 2016 and September 2021, the report found.

For dentists, the number registering to work in the UK each year has halved since 2016.

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Indeed, the report argues that Brexit has helped contribute to a shortage of specialist doctors in the UK, including anaesthetists and heart and lung experts.

The number of cardiothoracic surgeons coming to the UK after being trained in other EU countries was steadily increasing in the decade before 2016. However, since Brexit recruitment from the EU has stalled – and not just among specialist doctors.

Before Brexit the UK regularly recruited more than 500 trained dentists every year from the EU. But since the vote this has dropped to less than 250 each year, with few signs of recovery.

While the number of nurses joining the UK register from countries outside the EU has significantly increased – from just 800 in 2012-13 to 18,000 in 2021-22 – this still hasn’t been enough to prevent shortages.

Mark Dayan of the Nuffield Trust said: “The health and care sector is still reeling from the effects of a global pandemic and is now grappling with rising cost pressures.

"The effects of Brexit appear to have added to the severe challenges and problems the NHS currently faces.

“The economic hit of Brexit, combined with the worst cost of living crisis for a generation, is reducing living standards, creating additional need for health and care."

The SNP’s Europe and EU accession spokesperson Alyn Smith MP said: “The Tory government were warned repeatedly by the SNP and others of the impact their hard Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement would have on trade and labour shortages in Scotland and the UK - particularly in the NHS. They chose to ignore those warnings.

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“This report, along with many others, makes clear that Brexit is a key factor in the NHS staffing crisis. Independence is Scotland’s only route back to the EU and freedom of movement - it’s time the UK Government allowed us a referendum on the issue.

“If the Tory government wanted to solve the UK's NHS crisis they would ditch their hostile environment and reform the draconian migration system to allow us to recruit the workers we need. But the Tories continue to refuse to listen to common sense.”

Members of the Royal College of Nursing took strike action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the first time in their history last week.

Industrial action was avoided in Scotland after nurses from the Unison and Unite unions accepted an improved pay offer. 

However, members of the GMB union in Scotland rejected the pay offer. 

The Royal College of Nursing took the improved offer to a ballot of its members, which is due to close on December 19.