EU vital to NHS and social care services

Ministers examine impact on workforce and clinical research

Leaving the EU will present a significant challenge for planning Scotland’s NHS and social care workforce, as well as its potential to be at the forefront of clinical research excellence, Scottish Ministers have said today.

Meeting EU and EEA health and social care staff in Glasgow this morning, Health Secretary Shona Robison and Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell said the free movement of labour across Europe had made a huge contribution to NHS Scotland’s reputation for world-leading care.

Hearing from health and social care workers from other EU countries, Ms Robison and Mr Russell said the rights of EU and EEA staff working in this country must be protected as a priority.

They also visited the University of Glasgow’s new Imaging Centre of Excellence, based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which will house the UK’s first ultra-high field 7 Tesla (7T) MRI scanner, located in a clinical setting.

Opening in Spring 2017, the new scanner was part-funded with £2.3 million of European Regional Development Funding and will be the centrepiece of the ICE building – providing new world-leading clinical research facilities and bringing together academic, scientific and NHS clinical expertise.

Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, said: “Over 360,000 people across Scotland work in health and social care services - working day-in and day-out to support people to live longer, healthier lives.

“The contribution of EU and EEA nationals to these services cannot be overestimated. Doctors, nurses and care workers from across Europe help to staff our GP surgeries, our hospitals and our care homes.  We must as a priority protect their right to live and work in this country, as well as our ability to attract their successors in years to come.

“As we have also seen today, EU research funding has helped to attract some of the best and brightest from the continent - meaning our patients get access to some of the world’s most pioneering treatments.

“This together means that over the years of our membership, the European Union has played a vital role in NHS Scotland’s reputation for delivering world-leading care and in our negotiations for exiting we will seek to protect this.”

The Scottish Government also launched a consultation today, seeking views from health and social care organisations, frontline staff and stakeholder groups, on a new national workforce plan.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU presents us with many challenges for planning the future NHS and social care workforce. It adds to what is already a complex picture as our health and social care services transform to meet the needs of an increasingly elderly population with more complex, long-term conditions.

“The consultation I am publishing today on the new national health and social care workforce plan aims to set out some initial thinking around how we can improve staff planning for the future. But we want to take this forward very much in partnership with our staff and the vast range of organisations that employ them.

“That is why I would encourage all organisations and stakeholders with a stake in the future of our health and care workforce to respond to the consultation and give us their views.”

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, said: “ICE and the 7 Tesla scanner are both very important for the city of Glasgow, the NHS, Scotland and the UK. The scanner – an important ‘first’ for Scotland – wouldn’t have been possible without £2.3m of European Union funding.

“Beyond the benefits of EU funding, the ability to form collaborations and networks across Europe will be a key part to the long-term success of this project. Also key, will be bringing skilled staff from the EU to work on such advanced technology.”


The National Health and Social care Workforce Planning – National Discussion Document is available to view on the Scottish Government website:

  • EU 27 nationals make up 4.5% of the Scottish workforce in employment across sectors, and account for 3.0% of the workforce in the Health and Social Care Sector (Annual Population Survey 2015, Office for National Statistics)
  • Just over 1,159 non-UK EEA-qualified doctors in Scotland (as at 27 October 2016), from a total of 20,028 – 5.8%. (GMC 2016)
  • Around 4% of nurses and midwives and 2% of dentists in training are from the EU. (Office for National Statistics data – 29 June 2016).

The Scottish Government is looking at options to improve information on the country of origin of the workforce in Scotland. This will provide data to assess the potential impact for NHS Scotland and social care services being unable to recruit non-UK EU nationals. Improved data collection is something that will be considered as part of the new National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan.


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