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NHS staff shortage could get worse after Brexit says Plymouth nurse

Sandra Gutierrez came to the UK from Spain four years ago Photo: ITV News

European health workers are staying away from the UK amid uncertainty over Brexit, according to a Plymouth nurse.

With nursing vacancies rising and an increasing demand for care, confusion over the UK's future relationship with the EU means fewer nurses are coming to the West Country to fill vital roles.

Theatre nurse Sandra moved here from Spain four years ago.

Sandra says Brexit could make it more difficult to move between European countries Credit: ITV News

It's a difficult decision to make. You're leaving your family behind, you're leaving your friends. Everything you knew is now going to go, and you're going to have to start from scratch in some other place. Perhaps Brexit is even making it slightly more difficult. If you were scared before, then with all this Brexit, oh no I'd better not do it then.

– Sandra Gutierrez
There are many nursing vacancies at hospitals across the West Country Credit: ITV News

The number of NHS vacancies hit a record high last year. And with nursing students no longer receiving bursaries, the gaps are beginning to widen.

A leading academic from Plymouth University says ending freedom of movement could spell disaster for the region's hospitals.

Bridie Kent from Plymouth University is worried about the future of nursing Credit: ITV News

In Devon alone we've got 820 nursing vacancies. Escalate that across the rest of the country and the situation is really dire. We need those additional people coming in, in the way that we've always done that. If barriers are put in place, we have a major problem. We've seen people going back to their home countries, we've seen a real reluctance in people coming in because of the uncertainty around what's going to happen to them, are they going to be allowed to stay? A no deal Brexit would be probably the worst case scenario for the NHS and I'm just hoping that does not happen.

– Bridie Kent, Plymouth University

The number of nurses from EU countries joining the NHS is falling all the time, down to just eight per cent last year. While the rate of European nurses leaving is going in the other direction. But some believe a No Deal exit could actually free up the health service to recruit from further afield.

Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray says Brexit presents an opportunity Credit: ITV News

When you look at the rest of the world, and nurses with the skills to be able to provide that care in our hospitals, the world is a much bigger place than the European Union. I really wish people would now look at the opportunities leaving the European Union gives this nation, rather than the doom and gloom that we are hearing.

– Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP South East Cornwall

The Royal College of Nursing has added its voice to the debate, saying the biggest worry is making sure there is no disruption in the supply of medicines.

Susan Masters says the RCN's members are expressing 'significant concern' Credit: ITV News

It could have a significant impact. We do know that people are personally stockpiling medicines, our members are telling us that they are very concerned about not only medicines but medical equipment. The Department of Health are currently making a plan for a no deal Brexit should that happen, looking at whether there may be delays at the border, speaking to the Department of Transport to ensure that is not a threat to the supply of medicines. Anything that impacts on patient care is of significant concern to our members.

– Susan Masters, Royal College of Nursing