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Health minister: ‘EU docs should feel welcomed, supported and encouraged to stay’

stephen hammond mp

Whichever side of the EU exit debate you stand on, we all want to live in a world which encourages, supports and ultimately rewards our efforts to learn more, do more, be more.

For the many amazing men and women training or working in our health and care system, the imminent prospect of our departure from the EU has concentrated minds like never before – especially for EU nationals who either live, train and/or want to work here.

The staff in our health and care system, whether you’re a GP, a school nurse, or a domiciliary care worker, could not deliver the excellent care they do without the dedication of colleagues from countries in Europe and beyond. We want them to stay here long after the UK leaves the EU.

Our priority is to make sure the 63,000 EU staff currently working in the NHS, and the 104,000 EU staff who work in social care are not only able to stay, but feel welcomed, supported and encouraged to do so. Our Long Term Plan makes the same, heartfelt commitment to its workforce and those yet to join its ranks.

There are two big issues, though, on which non-UK nationals need and deserve reassurance.

The first addresses the understandable concern that their hard-earned and rightly-deserved qualifications may not carry the same weight – or even be considered valid – in a post Brexit scenario.

The second, more wide-ranging worry, involves uncertainty over their so called ‘right to remain’ – basically their right to live and work in the UK.

Let’s address the qualifications issue first. Currently, all EU member states, including the UK, abide by the terms of MRPQs (Mutually Recognised Professional Qualifications). This means, for example, that an Italian nurse’s qualifications and right to practice are recognised in the UK just as their British equivalent would be in Italy.

We all want to live in a world which encourages, supports and ultimately rewards our efforts to learn more, do more, be more

The legislation announced today guarantees, regardless of whether we leave the EU with or without a deal, clinicians, nurses and care workers will still have their qualifications recognised beyond exit day, including those beginning their training under current MRPQ terms.

I want to reassure all EU nationals reading these words – we anticipate no need for any change to existing employment contracts if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. There is no question of EU staff needing to re-apply for their own jobs because of Brexit.

Job security is, understandably, also linked to the reasonable expectation that we should be allowed to remain in the country where our job is based.

Since the referendum, 5,200 more EU workers have started working in the NHS and we want to encourage those living and working in the UK to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Why? Because knowing they have the right to live and work in the UK not only provides job security but also means these colleagues can continue to play a vital contribution in ensuring patients can continue to receive the high-quality care they need and deserve.

EU citizens already living in the UK can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to secure either ‘settled status’, if they have been in the UK for five years, or ‘pre-settled status’ if they have lived in the UK for fewer than five years.

The process to register is simple and free to all from 30 March 2019. You’ll find all the information you need on the EU Settlement Scheme on Peace of mind is a click away.

Brexit, whatever your view, is about our future and this government is committed to a brighter one for all our health and care professionals.

Stephen Hammond MP is Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care