Following the UK’s Brexit vote, the status of EU nationals working in the UK has become uncertain. The NHS is affected by this issue, because 5.6% of its staff are nationals of other EU countries. This post looks at the stats on NHS staff from other EU countries: what jobs do they do in the NHS, what parts of the country do they work in, and where are they from?

The data discussed here is taken from our new briefing paper, NHS staff from overseas: statistics.

Nationality of NHS staff

12% of NHS staff say that their nationality is non-British, representing around 200 different nationalities. 5.6% report a nationality of an EU country other than the UK – almost 62,000 NHS staff.

Chart showing that of every 1000 NHS staff in England 876 are British, 56 are from other EU countries, 41 are Asian, 19 are African and 8 are from somewhere else. These figures vary substantially across England. In London, 114 of every 1000 staff (11.4%) are from the EU.

Of EU nationals working in the NHS, 70% are from ‘old’ EU countries – those which joined the EU before 2004. One fifth of EU staff are from Ireland. Polish, Spanish, and Portuguese are the next most common. Together, these four nationalities make up over half of EU NHS staff.

Looking at staff from outside the EU, the most common nationalities are Indian and Philippine. These are the second and third most common nationalities in the NHS, with Irish fourth. The next-most common non-EU nationalities are Nigerian and Zimbabwean.

Most common nationalities of NHS staff: British (968,908), Indian (18.252), Philippine (15,037), Irish (13,013), Polish (8,339), Spanish (6,979), Portuguese (6,771), Italian (6,061), Nigerian (5,314), Zimbabwean (3,909), Romanian (3,716), Pakistani (3,370), Greek (2,959), German (2,374), Ghanaian (2,342), Malaysian (2,122).

Compared to employees in the wider economy (as recorded in the Labour Force Survey), the NHS has a lower proportion of staff from newer EU countries, and a higher percentage of staff with South Asian, Sub-Saharan African and South East Asian nationalities. The percentage of British staff and staff from older EU countries is broadly the same as the wider economy.

This information is self-reported, so the nationality people report might sometimes correspond with their cultural heritage rather than their citizenship. For 7% of NHS staff, nationality is unknown. The figures presented here exclude unknowns.

What jobs do EU staff do?

35% of NHS staff from other EU countries work as nurses. This amounts to 7.3% of all nurses in England’s NHS. Since 2009 there have been large increases in the number of nurses from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania.

• EU nationals in different NHS job roles: Clinical Support 13,120 (3.9%); Infrastructure Support 7,098 (4.0%); Scientific, Therapeutic and Technical 7,541 (5.3%); Nurses & Health Visitors 21,664 (7.3%); Doctors 10,577 (9.8%).

EU staff have the highest representation among hospital doctors – they make up almost 1 in 10 of this category. Among EU doctors, Greeks are notably represented – around 60% of Greek staff in the NHS work as doctors, compared with one-sixth of all EU staff. The number of Greek doctors has increased substantially since 2009.

More EU nationals in London, less in the North East

One-third of all EU NHS staff work in London. In London, EU nationals make up over 11% of NHS staff (one in nine). By contrast, they make up under 2% of staff (one in 55) in the North East of England.

There are 37 NHS trusts where over 10% of staff are estimated to be nationals of other EU countries. 30 of these are in London and the South East. There are 44 trusts where less than 2% of staff are nationals of other EU countries. 32 of these are in the North of England. At nineteen NHS trusts, more than a quarter of staff report a non-British nationality.

The chart below shows a regional breakdown of the nationality of NHS staff in England. EU nationals are shown as the blue segment of the bars.

EU & EEA nationals made up a smaller percentage of joiners in 2016/17

Since the EU referendum in 2016, the percentage of staff with EU nationality has changed little.

The data discussed here is taken from our briefing paper, NHS staff from overseas: statistics, which discusses data from NHS Digital’s workforce publications and supplementary information. Most of the data here relates to June 2017; some regional and trust-level data relates to April or March 2017.

Image credit:  The Stethoscope by Alex Proimos.  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 / image cropped