The latest Brexit shockwave – a 96% drop in EU nursing applications – The Guardian

The latest Brexit shockwave – a 96% drop in EU nursing applications – The Guardian

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The shockwaves of the huge destructive force of a banking crisis, followed by austerity, followed by the Brexit vote, just keep hitting. Among the various consequences to have been reported in the days since the election – rising inflation among them – is a 96% drop in nurse applications from the EU. Which means, in short, that nearly every nurse in the rest of Europe who might have come to Britain to work this year now isn’t going to.

The logic of Brexit insists that this will mean more British jobs for British workers. Alas, there are currently around 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK, and who exactly is going to fill them becomes more of a mystery every day. Applications from British citizens to train as nurses have also fallen. A drop of nearly a quarter is put down to the government’s abolition of NHS bursaries, which cushioned the £9,000 a year in student loans that nurses are expected to borrow to cover their tuition fees alone.

Worse, nurses retire. By 2020, just three years away, half of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement. The nursing crisis, as well as many of the other stresses and strains that the NHS is under, will mean that a lot of nurses will choose to retire simply for the good of their own health. Which is hardly a tagline for a recruitment poster.

If the Conservatives really were as shocked and baffled as they seem to have been by the number of people who voted against them, and in favour of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, they might have wanted to look again at this particular area. But, no. Jeremy Hunt still reigns supreme in the Department of Health, regardless of the fact that his experiment in discipline is despised by all who have dealings with it – staff and patients alike.

The Conservatives might want to look again, generally, at the offer they are making to the citizens they claim to serve. For three elections now, they have presented themselves to the people of Britain as the teachers of hard lessons. Mistakes have been made. Consequences must be faced. Books must be balanced. If wages were rising and prices falling as a result of all this mean and hard-faced husbandry, there could be reason to carry on believing it all. Instead, the reasons for rejecting endless parsimony stack up higher and higher instead.

Workers, nurses among them, are asked merrily to face a future in which their wages will continue to fail to keep pace with the cost of living, as the price of such luxuries as food keeps getting higher. A report suggesting that some nurses were using food banks has been rubbished, as if it were absolutely impossible for any family, under any circumstances, to find it hard to make ends meet on £19,500 a year. Before tax.

Nurses have endured pay freezes and rises below a 1% cap for seven years now, and at the moment this is set to continue until 2020. It all adds up to real-terms cuts in take-home pay, year after year after year. This is why people are so disgusted by the money for the NHS that was promised on the side of that Brexit bus.

The truth is that Brexit means fewer NHS staff under greater pressure paying more for life’s basics. And that goes for much of the rest of the population too. The Conservatives should be down on their knees thanking the Gods of Misrule that, unbelievably, they still got more votes than any other party. Their precarious hold on power is so much more than they have earned.

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