Brexit and cost-of-living crisis force Spanish NHS workers to abandon Britain

‘Good luck NHS nurses, you need it.’

NHS worker conditions

More and more people from Spain who work for the NHS are leaving the UK because of Brexit and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

In 2016, when the EU referendum took place, 7,130 Spanish citizens worked for the health service, according to UK parliamentary figures. By June 2023, this number had dropped to 5,114.

The NHS staff from overseas statistics parliamentary report, published in November, showed that the number of NHS nurses from Spain had fallen from 4,675 in 2016 to 1,467 in 2023.

As of January 2023, the end of the freedom of movement had led to a shortfall of around 330,000 workers in Britain, a report by the think-tank the Centre for European Reform and UK is a Changing Europe found. The report cites changes to immigration law in Britain – which were enacted in January 2021 – as causing a drop in EU and non-EU workers in Britain. Since EU free movement ended in the UK in 2021, newly arriving EU citizens must have permission to enter, live and work in Britain.

Post-Brexit, most EU workers in Britain are employed in less-skilled areas of the economy, the report also found. The hospitality and food sector has witnessed a four percent drop in foreign workers post-Brexit to 67,000, while the construction industry has experienced a two percent drop.

As a growing number of Spanish workers leave the NHS and head back home, fewer nurses from Spain are moving to Britain to work, because of Brexit. Diego Ayuso, secretary general of the Spanish General Council of Nursing, said the UK is less attractive for nurses than Norway, Sweden, Italy, France, or other EU countries, because their work Britain does not count towards an EU points system.

Magda Martinez, a former senior nurse in the NHS, moved backed to Spain last summer. She had to take on two additional shifts on intensive care wards at the weekends, to ensure her family could get by in London. Following Britain’s departure from the EU, Martinez’s sick mother was no longer able to receive treatment on the NHS is she lived with the family in Britain. “The day of the Brexit vote, I felt that we were being kicked out of our own home. I had my life here, but I was not welcome,” she told i News.

“We had the feeling that the cost-of-living crisis got worse and worse, and you think ‘what am I doing?’

Caroline Williams is a former NHS nurse, who has lived in Spain since 2006. She told Left Foot Forward how she was glad she had left the UK before Brexit.

“The wages for a nurse (of any kind) in the NHS are bad, and by the time you have taken out your rent or mortgage, you are hardly left with anything. Now with the cost of food going up, it’s even worse. You need nutritious food not junk, to survive the shifts. Good luck NHS nurses, you need it.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Comments are closed.