We continue to work closely with the Department of Health. Reports that large numbers of EU nationals are leaving the NHS are untrue. The latest figures from NHS Digital show that there were over 3,000 more EU nationals, including 470 more doctors, working in the NHS in June 2017 than there were before the referendum result. That is an increase of 5.4%. The overall share of the NHS workforce who are EU nationals also increased over that time, from 5% to 5.2%. I believe this proves that EU nationals recognise that we value the enormous contribution they make to the NHS, and I hope the agreement on citizens’ rights reached on 8 December gives them even more certainty.
I refer Members to my declared interest. Some 1,700 NHS doctors from European economic area countries were recently surveyed by the British Medical Association, and half were considering leaving and one in five have made firm plans to go, many after 20 years. Whatever Ministers say, the message is not reaching our doctors and nurses. What more will the Minister do to convince them to stay?
Happily, I am married to a doctor and I read that BMA article, which is available online. I recommend to anyone that they read the entire article to put everything into context. Of course, I respect the fact that the hon. Gentleman is a doctor, but I say to all Members that it is incumbent on us all to celebrate the agreement we have reached on citizens’ rights and for every one of us, without exception, to send out the message that we value people from wherever they may come.
Somerset Care in my constituency employs 172 European Union workers, who are vital to the care provided for those who really need it. In fact, the whole healthcare sector in the south-west already struggles to get enough staff. Will the Minister reiterate to those staff the assurance that they will be able to stay? What they really want to know is how they will stay and what they will do.
As my hon. Friend will know, we have every intention of carrying forward the agreement we have reached to a successful conclusion, and that agreement includes provisions to ensure that the process of registering for settled status is a smooth one.