THE number of staff quitting the NHS in Scotland soared at the height of uncertainty over the future of the Union, it has been revealed.  Meanwhile, the number of people joining the service dipped around the time of the Brexit vote.

The figures, which show a continual rise in the number of people leaving the health service in Scotland between 2012 and 2017, are revealed in a BBC investigation into the impact of Brexit on EU nationals working within the NHS. 

It shows that EU nationals are leaving the NHS in England in higher numbers since Brexit than before it. At the same time there has been a fall in the number of EU citizens opting to join the service.  The future of EU citizens in a post-Brexit landscape has been a key issue for the NHS, with concerns that even if residency status is confirmed there will be problems retaining staff and attracting recruits from EU countries. 

The findings showed that in the last full year before the Brexit referendum 7,535 EU nationals left NHS jobs south of the Border.

They made up 5.6 per cent of all NHS workers opting to leave. That figure increased to 6.6 per cent the following year and to 7.4 per cent for the first six months of this year. 

NHS Scotland does not record the nationalities of people leaving and joining the service.  

However the figures show that between 2012-13 to 2016-17 the number of staff leaving the NHS has gone from 9,164 to 11,481.

The number leaving in 2014-15, at the height of independence uncertainty, was 11 per cent higher than the previous year. 

Across the same five-year period, numbers joining the NHS in Scotland have fluctuated, with a drop of almost 1,000 people being recruited during 2015-16, at the height of Brexit campaigning.

Over the five-year period numbers joining rose from 11,248 to 12,283. Nurses joining the NHS have increased from 4,545 to 6,136.

Ellen Hudson, Associate Director, RCN Scotland said: “According to the latest official figures, the nursing and midwifery vacancy rate in Scotland now stands at 5.2 per cent – the highest ever recorded. Across both acute and community settings in NHS Scotland, there are simply too few nurses to meet demand. 

“Like the rest of the UK, Scotland, depends on the contribution of EU nationals working in health and social care and the current uncertainty risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from across Europe.”