This one will get the Remainers going, as they will tell you endlessly about a post Brexit vote xenophobia that is driving foreign nationals out of the NHS. But is that really the case?
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So, according to the Remain campaigners our health service is falling to bits because the Brexit vote has brought on a state of national xenophobia that is driving foreign medical staff out of the NHS.
Well, let's see what the government's own figures put together for a House of Commons briefing paper issued yesterday says, shall we?
But first, I just want to point to the latest ONS data that shows that, out of the whole UK workforce of just over 32.5 million, 88.7% are from the UK, 7.3% are from the other EU countries and just 4% are from the rest of the world. The figures shown in blue on the graph.
Now, I will make it clear that those stats cover the whole UK, while the House of Commons briefing paper covers NHS England only, but I am using them as a comparison. Because NHS England is by far the largest NHS Employer with 1.2 million workers, whereas Scotland has 162,00, Wales 89,000 and Northern Ireland has 64,000.
Now, according to the briefing paper there are nearly 1.2 million workers in NHS England that are made up as follows and shown in Green on the graph:
86.9%, or just over a million are from the UK
5.5%, or just over 64,000 are from the EU
and 7.6%, or nearly 89,000 are from the rest of the world.
As you can see from this comparison graph, we have fewer people from the UK working in NHS England as a proportion, than in the rest of the economy.
While those from the EU are relatively under-represented and those from the rest of the world of about 200 nationalities are over-represented when compared to the wider UK economy.
A couple of other points to note, are that one third of all EU nationals in NHS England work in London, so make up 11.1% of the staff in those trusts.
And 37% of hospital doctors gained their primary medical qualification outside the UK, with 20% qualifying in Asia and 9% qualifying in the EU.
For GPs, 4% qualified in the EU and 13% in Asia.
Now we come to the crux of the data. According to the briefing paper, in June 2016 when the referendum was held, there were 58,698 staff in NHS England with recorded EU nationality and as of March 2019 there were 65,073, a recorded increase since the referendum of 6,375, or 10.9%.
Now, before you go bandying this figure about there is a large caveat.
It turns out that in June 2016 there were 89,546 people working in NHS England whose nationality was not known, but this has decreased by about 26,000 to 63,842.
This means that some of the increase in recorded EU NHS worker numbers could just be down to finding out where some of those already here, came from.
But the paper does say:
"While it is likely that there has been an overall increase in the number of NHS staff with EU nationality since 2016, we can’t be sure about the scale of the change."
So, this also means that all previous claims about the numbers of EU staff joining and leaving the NHS are also suspect, are they not?
And the paper goes on to say:
"One way to partially account for this is to present the number of EU staff as a percentage of all staff with a known nationality. On this measure, the percentage of staff with EU nationality has changed little since the referendum."
But the paper does go on to say that fewer EU nationals, especially nurses, are joining the NHS as a percentage and more are leaving but the converse is true when looking at those from the rest of the world, as can be seen on the right hand side of this graphic.
But remember this is percentages of just those joining and leaving, not absolute numbers. And also remember that the Commons briefing paper itself did say that it was likely that there has been an overall increase in the number of NHS staff with EU nationality since 2016. And one of the drivers here is total numbers, as having looked back at NHS personnel levels I see that NHS England has increased every year overall.
But at the end of the day, if xenophobia really was an issue, we would be seeing a drop off in both EU and non-EU nurses joining the NHS and an increase in both leaving, wouldn't we?