Ensuring that we have a well-staffed NHS, caring for patients around the clock, is of utmost importance. The staff in the NHS provide our country with an invaluable service, and I believe that they should be supported accordingly.
I recognise that leaving the EU may impact staffing in the NHS. However, this Government has repeatedly made it clear that it values and respects the work done by EU nationals working in the health service. A new settled status scheme under UK law will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. This will ensure that EU nationals can continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector, and will allow them to remain in the county with the same rights that they enjoy today. Such a scheme will provide certainty for EU citizens regarding residency, healthcare, pensions and other benefits.
The latest NHS workforce statistics show that, far from the referendum result encouraging EU nationals working in the NHS to leave our country, there are over 4,300 more EU nationals working in the NHS than there were in June 2016. I would also note that the proportion of our NHS workforce made up by EU nationals has risen to 5.6 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent in 2010.
It is only sensible for the Government to make long term plans for NHS staffing, however. Instead of relying on clinical staff from abroad, I agree with the Secretary of State for Health that we must increase the number of home-grown NHS staff. You may be aware that there has been a recent expansion of both the number of medical schools and the number of medical school places in the UK. This will allow the training of the extra doctors needed because of the ageing of the medical workforce, the need for more doctors due to advances in healthcare, and the ageing and expansion of the UK population. Such expansion of doctor numbers is long overdue: despite massive Consultant expansion over the last 15 years, a recent survey showed that over 20% of Consultant posts could not be appointed because of insufficient high quality applicants.
I also fully support plans to increase nursing, midwifery and allied health pre-registration training positions by up to 10,000 by 2020, and broaden routes into nursing through the expansion of Nursing Associates and the introduction of Nurse Degree Apprenticeships, which will open up careers in nursing to people from all backgrounds. It is pleasing to note that there are currently record numbers of nurses working in the NHS: since May 2010, the number of nurses and health visitors has increased by over 14,000, with an additional 52,000 in training.
Training more doctors and nurses in the UK will also help developing countries, who for too long have seen their home-trained medical professionals leave soon after qualifying, thus denying those countries staff they desperately need to develop their own healthcare systems. These plans announced by the Health Secretary will therefore ensure that the NHS is able to provide sustainable, high quality service in the long term while helping developing countries to do the same.