More than 250 staff at Worthing Hospital are part of thousands of EU nationals who play a ‘vital’ role in the NHS, a union figure has said.
There are 188 medical staff at the outstanding-rated hospital hailing from countries that could face tough immigration restrictions after Brexit.
Dr Andrew Dearden, British Medical Association treasurer, said: “EU nationals play an invaluable role in health and social care in the UK, and have been vital in addressing the staff shortages across the NHS.
“Put simply, our already over-stretched health service would not be able to cope without them and patient care would suffer.”
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the paper to Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, revealed 260 staff at the hospital come from the 27 other EU countries.
This is made up of 188 medical staff such as doctors and nurses and 72 non-clinical workers in roles like administrators and estate management.
While Prime Minister Theresa May has promised EU citizens currently in the UK will not have to leave, one of the biggest Brexit issues is how the NHS will be able to attract enough overseas staff to keep up with demand if freedom of movement ends.
Dr Dearden added: “We know that non-UK workers have already begun to leave the NHS following the referendum, making effective transitional arrangements post-Brexit absolutely vital.
“To protect the future of the NHS, the government must work to ensure the immigration system remains flexible enough to recruit doctors and other NHS staff from overseas, especially where the resident workforce is unable to produce enough applicants to fill vacant roles.”
Denise Farmer, executive director of organisational development and workforce at Western Sussex Hospitals trust, said: “Western Sussex Hospitals benefits from being able to include skilled and dedicated staff from across the EU, as well as from further afield, in our workforce.
“All our staff share the same commitment to providing outstanding patient care and their efforts are hugely appreciated.”
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt told BBC’s Today programme on Monday: “We want to make sure NHS hospitals can carry on recruiting the people they need to continue to give the services that they offer.”