Healthcare officials are warning the government to tighten regulation to promote public safety
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has warned that regulatory loopholes mean that nurses and midwives from the EU are automatically registered as safe to work in the UK, even if their skills haven’t been tested or they haven’t practiced in decades.
The NMC estimates that there could be as many as 38,000 nurses and midwives working in the UK who were trained in Europe.
But under existing regulation, designed to promote freedom of movement across Europe, overseas healthcare professionals are only subjected to practical exams and competence tests if they are coming from countries outside the continent.
European healthcare professionals are only subjected to paper-based checks of their qualifications.
It is estimated that 38,000 midwives and nurses from the EU currently work in UK hospitals
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Ahead of a Parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday at which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be questioned about the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU, the NMC urged ministers to tighten regulation.
In a submission to Parliament, the NMC said: “We believe that this poses a public protection risk.”
The number of nurses and midwives coming to the UK from the EU is on the rise, with official figures showing that in 2015/16, a total of 9,388 from the EU were registered to work in the UK, compared with 3,137 in 2011/12.
The NMC added: “Under the conditions of automatic recognition enshrined in the Directive, we are required to recognise a nurse or midwife’s qualification even if they have been out of practice for a significant length of time.”
Midwives are only subjected to practical checks if they come from outside the EU
It is incredibly risky, and absolutely ludicrous that regulators are allowing nurses to work without carrying out checks on their safety and competence
Joyce Robins, Patient Concern
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said the current system should never have been allowed.
“It is incredibly risky, and absolutely ludicrous that regulators are allowing nurses to work without carrying out checks on their safety and competence.
The Health Secretary has previously expressed his aim to reduce the NHS’ dependence on overseas workers, promising to make the health service “self-sufficient” within a decade.
He has also called for healthcare professionals from the EU to be given assurances from the Government that they can remain in the UK post-Brexit.