• The scheme will give EU workers the same entitlements to work as current rules do
  • NHS Employers said scheme will make a difference to NHS staff 
  • Royal College of Nurses said EU workers need assurances Home Office personnel and IT can “meet this challenge”

EU workers employed by the NHS will be granted “settled status” after five years living in the UK under plans revealed by the government today.

The move by home secretary Sajid Javid has been welcomed by NHS Employers and unions as it will give certainty to NHS staff and organisations amid concern over the effect of Brexit on EU born NHS staff.

Mr Javid set out in a document published by the Home Office the basis of the EU settlement scheme that it plans to open later this year.

Mr Javid has said the government wants to make it “as easy as possible” for EU citizens and their family in the UK to secure their rights.

The document says the scheme will give EU citizens the “same entitlements to work, study and access public services” according to the current immigration rules.

The home secretary confirmed that to obtain settled status EU citizens will need to have lived continuously in the UK for five years.

Those with less than five years’ continuous residence will be granted pre-settled status and be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five year point, Mr Javid said.

The settlement scheme will open in a phased way from later this year and will be fully open by 30 March 2019. The deadline for applications will be 30 June 2021.

NHS employers and unions have welcomed the announcement

Danny Mortimer, NHS Employers chief executive and co-chair of the Cavendish coalition, said employers would welcome this news and stressed it would make a difference to staff working in the UK and to those considering whether to travel here to begin work.

“We are pleased the system is still on track to open to applications later this year. It is imperative this process is fast, simple and with a low administrative burden for individuals,” Mr Mortimer said.

Andrew Dearden, British Medical Association treasurer, said ongoing uncertainty over the government’s settled status scheme had caused a lot of anxiety for EU nationals.

“Confirmation that anyone arriving before the end of December 2020 will have access to the same rights as those who arrived in the UK before March 2019 will be particularly useful for both NHS employers and staff,” Dr Dearden said.

“Operationally, the new system must be quick and straightforward to navigate and not an administrative burden on individuals,” he added.

Earlier this year, the Nursing and Midwifery Council data revealed a significant rise in the number of EU nurses and midwives leaving the register - between April 2017 and March 2018, 3,962 people left the register.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that EU nationals need a “firm commitment from government” that in the case of a Brexit no-deal “today’s promises still hold”.

Ms Davies said: “European nurses have put up with two years of uncertainty, mixed messages and even being used as ‘bargaining chips’. Today’s announcement is not before time.”

Ms Davies added that EU nurses need assurances that “Home Office personnel and IT will be able to meet this challenge”.