Brexit risk to NHS recruitment

Health Secretary to lead debate on health impact of EU withdrawal

Scotland’s NHS and social care sector is at risk of losing many highly-skilled European staff due to uncertainty over their status following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Health Secretary Shona Robison will say today.

Ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Ms Robison paid tribute to the contribution that EU nationals have made to NHS and social care services.

And she called on the UK Government to give health and care staff assurances that they will be allowed to live and work in Scotland following Brexit.

Approximately 1,400 doctors working in Scotland are from other EU countries, as well as around 4% of nurses and midwives and 2% of dentists in training.

The Health Secretary said that the uncertainty around future citizenship status will make it harder to recruit doctors, nurses and care workers from outside the UK – as well as impacting on the ability of Scotland’s medical schools to attract the best students from around the world.

Ms Robison said: “Medical professionals from all over the world have played a vital and valued part in our NHS for decades.

“The fact that the UK Government can’t give simple assurances that they will be welcome to stay in this country if we leave the EU is, frankly, unacceptable.

“This is hampering efforts now to recruit highly-skilled medical staff and care workers from outside this country – something that is extremely concerning in a highly competitive international recruitment market.

“There is a real risk we will lose many individuals, if we cannot provide reassurance on tuition fees, free movement and future career opportunities.

“The UK Government must stop using NHS staff from the EU as bargaining chips and I repeat the calls that we have already made for Scotland to be fully involved in negotiations between the UK Government and the EU – in the interests of protecting the health and social care workforce in Scotland.”

During the debate the Health Secretary will also set out the Scottish Government’s position on a number of other key areas where Brexit could affect health and social care services, including:

  • The need to maintain parity of recognised qualifications across Member States, which currently facilitates professional mobility.
  • The protection of health and social care workers’ rights, including the European Working Time Directive.
  • The importance of EU research programmes and international collaboration to Scotland’s reputation for excellence in health research.
  • The retention of EU-wide healthcare arrangements, so Scotland’s citizens can have access to state healthcare throughout the European Economic Area (EEA).


The Scottish Government debate ‘Scotland Values its EU Workforce and their Contribution to Health and Social Care’ will be opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and closed by the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe.

The Scottish Government motion is available to view here:


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