By Andrew Woodcock, Press Association Political Editor
The head of NHS England has said the UK must take a “sensible” approach to recruiting healthcare staff from abroad after the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Simon Stevens said it was also “crucial” to reassure the 65,000 staff from other EU countries who make up 5% of the NHS workforce that they remain welcome in the UK following Brexit.
Pressed on whether he could guarantee that supplies of medicines would be maintained after Brexit, the NHS England chief executive said that this would be dependent on transport plans being implemented as intended.
“As the Health Secretary said yesterday, if everybody does what they are being asked to do – particularly around the transport and logistics infrastructure – then yes that will be the case,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Stevens said the NHS was “working very closely with Government” to avoid disruption to the healthcare system as a result of EU withdrawal.
“We have been focusing particularly on medicines supply,” he said. “That’s obviously closely linked to the availability of good transport arrangements post-Brexit, including freight by sea and air.
“The Department of Health and Social Care, which leads on this, are working very closely with us to put in place contingency plans.”
Asked what the impact of Brexit would be on NHS staffing, Mr Stevens said: “We’ve got about 5% of NHS staff that come from the rest of the European Union. That’s very important, 65,000 people.
“It’s crucial that we are able to provide the reassurance that they continue to be immensely important and very welcome going forward.
“It will clearly be important that we have a sensible approach to being able to continue to recruit internationally to the NHS, alongside the expansion in domestically trained staff.
“Given that more of our international staff come from outside the EU than inside the EU at the moment, in principle there’s no reason why we can’t get this right.”