The gap between the number of EU nationals joining and leaving the NHS has narrowed further, new figures reveal.
There has been a steady decline in the number starting work in the health service since 2015, data from NHS Digital shows, but a rise in the number quitting.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the UK has become a “less attractive place” to work, as it called for urgent action to address workforce shortages.
Between June 2017 and June 2018, a total of 11,384 EU nationals started work at NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England, the figures show.
However, 10,487 EU nationals, including 4,086 nurses and health visitors, left the health service.
This compares to 12,748 EU national joiners and 9,854 leavers, of which 3,885 were nurses, in the year to June 2017.
Between June 2015 and June 2016, 15,474 EU nationals started work in the NHS and 8,056 left.
Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive of the RCN, said: “While politicians squabble over Brexit, our struggling healthcare system is fast losing its most important asset, its staff.
“Patient care is already suffering as tens of thousands of nursing vacancies mean care is being left undone.
“It is clear the UK has become a less attractive place to work for thousands of valued EU nurses, and combined with falling student numbers, and more nurses reaching retirement age, our workforce faces unprecedented challenges.
“The need for a comprehensive workforce plan that responds to population need has never been greater.
“This should be backed up by legislation that holds ministers to account for safe staffing levels, and keeps patients safe.”