The information in this blog is now out of date – see One NHS, many nationalities: 2017 or NHS staff from overseas: statistics for up to date information on NHS staff from overseas

Following the vote to leave the EU, the status of EU nationals already working in the UK has become uncertain. The NHS is affected by this issue, because 5% of its staff are nationals of other EU countries. The Health Secretary and senior NHS leaders have sought to reassure EU staff that they continue to be welcome, and praised their contribution to the NHS. This blog 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?

Nationality of NHS staff

12% of NHS staff say that their nationality is non-British, representing a total of 199 different nationalities. 5% report a nationality of an EU country other than the UK – that’s almost 59,000 people. Of these, over 70% are from ‘old’ EU countries – those which joined the EU before 2004. One quarter of EU staff are from Ireland. Polish, Spanish, and Portuguese are the next most common. Together, these four nationalities make up almost three-fifths of EU NHS staff. The EU countries with the lowest NHS representation are Luxembourg (13) and Slovenia (113).


Looking at non-EU countries, 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.

This information is self-reported, so it might not always correspond with the person’s citizenship. For 8% of NHS staff, nationality is unknown. The figures presented here excludes unknowns.

What areas of the NHS do EU staff work in?

Just over 35% of NHS staff from other EU countries, or 21,000, work as nurses. This amounts to 7% of all nurses. Since 2009 there have been large increases in the number of nurses from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania.

In percentage terms, EU staff have the highest representation among doctors – they make up almost 1 in 10 of this category. Among EU doctors, Greeks are notably represented – over 70% 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 in London, less in the North East

One-third of all EU NHS staff work in London, while one-sixth work in the north of England. As a percentage of the workforce, EU staff make up over 10% of staff in all of the NHS’s London workforce regions. By contrast, they make up only 1.5% of NHS staff (1 in 67) in the North East.

All regions have a higher number of staff from older EU countries than newer EU countries. The difference between London and the rest of the country is mostly because it has a higher number of staff from older EU countries. For instance, London has the same percentage of staff from newer EU countries as the East of England, but its percentage of staff from old EU countries is twice as high.

In the chart below, EU staff are shown as the blue segment of the bars.

Number of NHS staff by nationality and region, March 2016Number of NHS staff by nationality and region, March 2016


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

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