Healthcare staff from the European Union can join or continue to work in the NHS for the next five years without undergoing additional exams or further assessments, the government has decided.
The “standstill provisions”, which were put in place after the United Kingdom left the European Union in 2020, have been extended by government until 2028.
The NHS has become increasingly reliant on recruiting staff from overseas, particularly nurses, but has seen a significant drop in the number of staff joining from the European Union post-Brexit.
The government’s move on the day before the expected publication of its long-awaited long-term workforce plan underlines how much it expects to continue to rely on overseas staff for the foreseeable future.
The review by the Department of Health and Social Care, published today, said: “Retaining the standstill provisions for a temporary period of five years will support the [DHSC’s] ambition to attract and recruit overseas healthcare professionals, without introducing complex and burdensome registration routes.
“[European Economic Area]-qualified healthcare professionals will be able to continue to register with the relevant professional regulator, without the need to sit additional professional exams, mitigating delays to registration and employment in the NHS.”
According to the government, around 4,000 qualified staff, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, would need to take additional assessments each year if the standstill was not in place.
The DHSC said a decision will be taken on whether to establish emergency cross-border working arrangements with the Republic of Ireland at a later unspecified date.
A further review of the “standstill provisions” is expected to take place in 2028.