The number of nurses from the European Union registering to work in Scotland has risen since the Brexit vote, despite numbers falling in the rest of the UK.
Health secretary Shona Robison told the Holyrood parliament there has been a 7.4% increase in Scotland since last June’s referendum, in contrast to a fall of 96% in the UK as a whole.
Figures obtained by the Health Foundation show 1,304 nurses from the EU joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council register last July compared to just 46 in April of this year.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie asked the minister to set out the position in Scotland in light of the findings.
She said: “It’s important to note that despite the huge drop in registrations across the UK as a whole, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has actually recorded an increase of approximately 7.4% over the year to May 2017 in the number of EU-trained nurses registered to an address in Scotland.
“It’s extremely concerning with only 46 EU nurses registering in April this year and the point is this, that without EU nurses it will be even harder for the NHS and social care providers to find the staff they need to provide our services, which would be another negative consequence of a hard Brexit which, of course, we need to avoid.”
Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart argued nurse shortages had existed before the EU referendum, adding: “In fact when health secretary, the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) cut nurse training places by a fifth.
“Will the cabinet secretary accept that the current shortages of nurses in Scotland is as a result of that decision?”
Robison said: “What Dean Lockhart has not acknowledged is that we have more qualified nurses and midwives than previously, the number has increased by over 2,700 whole-time equivalent under this government, but of course there is more to be done.”
The health secretary highlighted the government’s commitment to deliver 1,000 extra nursing and midwifery training places over the course of the parliament.