Could bad Brexit put Weston’s hospital in danger?

Weston General Hospital says its EU employees are a 'valuable workforce'.

Weston General Hospital says its EU employees are a 'valuable workforce'. - Credit: Archant

One in six new recruits at Weston General Hospital are from the continent, new figures have revealed amid uncertainty over Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

New figures published by NHS Digital show Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT) recruited 41 members of staff from Europe from December 2017 to November 2018, equating to 17 per cent of its new employees.

The proportion is more than double the national average, highlighting the hospital's reliance on foreign workers to care for Weston's patients.

The trust has often looked to Spain, Portugal and beyond to plug staffing shortages.

Healthcare trade union Unison has warned the loss of European employees could push the NHS to 'a state of near collapse' - with many questions yet to be answered over the country's exit from the European Union and how it will affect immigration.

Almost three quarters of WAHT's 244 new employees in the period were from the UK, while 10 per cent were recruited from other parts of the world.

The UK average for new recruits from the EU for the period was slightly less than eight per cent.

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Julia Ross, chief executive of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group - which oversees the areas health services - has told of her fears of the impact of a bad Brexit deal.

In October she said: "Clearly Brexit for us in many of our services in workforce terms could be a real disaster if we get it wrong."

Sara Gorton, Unison's head of health, said hospitals were finding it harder to recruit and retain EU staff in the midst of uncertainty around Brexit.

She said: "Without the many health employees from across Europe, the NHS would be in a state of near collapse.

"Their skills and expertise have helped limit the effects of the huge staffing gaps.

"Staff losses would mean even more stress for an already overstretched workforce, and would have a devastating impact on patient care."

The Department of Health hopes NHS workers from the EU will stay in the country beyond the UK's departure.

A spokesman said: "EU workers play a vital role across the health and social care system, and we want them to stay here long after the UK leaves the EU."