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NHS staff: How many foreign staff work in the NHS?

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  • Reality Check

From Tuesday 1 August, most new students of areas such as nursing, midwifery and physiotherapy will no longer be able to apply for grants, and will have access instead to the student loans system.

UCAS announced earlier this year that there had been a notable decrease in students from England applying to do at least one nursing course, saying it had fallen 23% to 33,810 in 2017.

Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke last week about the "very high numbers of foreign workers keeping our NHS going".

Looking at the figures from NHS Digital, overall, 82% of NHS staff are UK nationals, with 5% from the European Economic Area (EEA, that's the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and 6% from the rest of the world. The remaining 7% are of unknown nationalities.

The unknowns are relatively high because they come from electronic staff records, not HR information, and it is not compulsory for staff to declare their nationalities for those records.

For doctors, it's 70% UK, 9% EEA, 16% from the rest of the world and 5% unknown.

And for nurses and health visitors it is 78% UK, 7% EEA, 8% from the rest of the world and 6% unknown.

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To put that into context, according to the latest labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 7.3% of workers in the UK are EU nationals while 3.9% are from the rest of the world.

Clearly, the unknowns throw comparisons out a bit, but the proportion of NHS staff from the EEA appears to be a bit below the workforce as a whole while there are considerably more from the rest of the world than the workforce average.

For doctors, there are proportionally more foreign nationals than in the workforce as a whole, especially for those from the rest of the world.

If you look at the figures for where doctors earned their qualifications, the rest of the world comes even higher with 27%, compared with 64% from the UK and 9% from the EEA.

Nurses from the EEA work in the NHS in the same proportion as the rest of the workforce while nurses from the rest of the world are overrepresented.

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