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NHS staff from overseas: statistics

Published Monday, April 10, 2017

12% of NHS staff in England are nationals of a country other than the UK. This includes 5.5% (just over 60,000) who are nationals of other EU countries. This briefing explores the nationality of NHS staff for doctors, nurses and other categories. Following the Brexit vote, there has been discussion around the future status of NHS staff from the EU.

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NHS staff from the EU and elsewhereClick thumbnail to enlarge graphic: One NHS, Many Nationalities

The majority of NHS staff are British – but a substantial minority are not. Around 134,000 staff in England report a non-British nationality. This is around 12% of all staff for whom a nationality is known. Between them, they report 199 non-British nationalities. Of these, around 60,000 are nationals of other EU countries - 5.5% of NHS staff in England.



Of every 1,000 NHS staff in England…	 	 	…877 are British 	…55 are from other EU countries 	…41 are Asian 	…18 are African 	…8 are from somewhere else

Of staff who joined the NHS in 2016, 9% were from other EU countries.

Data on staff nationality measures measure self-reported nationality, so may sometimes reflect cultural heritage rather than citizenship or country of birth. For around 7% of NHS workers, nationality is unknown - the percentages here exclude staff whose nationality is unknown.


EU nationals in different NHS job roles 

Nationals of other EU countries make up almost 10% of doctors in England's hospital and community health services. They also make up 7% of all nurses and almost 5% of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff. There has been little change in these percentages since the EU referendum. 

Percentage & number with other EU nationality, by area of work


Regional data and hospital-level data

The highest concentration of staff with other EU nationalities is in London. In North West London, they make up 11.7% of all NHS staff. In all regions, there are more staff from 'old' EU countries (those which were members before 2004, such as Spain and Italy) than 'new' EU countries (those which have joined since 2004, such as Poland and Romania).

 NHS staff from other EU countries by English region

EU and EEA staff at each NHS trust in EnglandThis map shows the NHS trusts in England with the highest and lowest percentage of EU/EEA nationals. Click the thumbnail to expand






Staff from outside the EU

74,000 (6.8%) of NHS staff in England are from outside the EU. This includes 16% of doctors, 9% of nurses, and 5% of support staff. 60% of non-EU staff are Asian, and a quarter are African. Of the small remainder, most are of Australian, Jamaican, American or Canadian nationality. In total, 172 non-EU nationalities are represented in total in England's NHS, including Togolese, Kyrgyzstani, Montserratian, Basotho, and Bolivian.

NHS staff from outside the EU (%)

Policy context

Following the vote to leave the European Union, the Health Secretary and senior NHS leaders have sought to provide reassurance to NHS employees from the EU that they continue to be welcome in the UK and have praised their contribution to the country. However, there have been concerns that even if the residency status of EU nationals working in the NHS is confirmed, it could become more difficult to retain staff and attract new recruits from EU countries, at a time when services are already under pressure.

At the Conservative Party conference 2016, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to make the NHS ‘self-sufficient’ in doctors by 2025, so that it would no longer rely on staff from overseas.

The Commons Health Select Committee has taken evidence on workforce issues arising from Brexit.

Further discussion of these issues can be found in the Lords Library Note Leaving the EU: Health and Social Care Workforce. 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7783

Author: Carl Baker

Topics: Europe, Health services, Health staff and professions, Immigration, Medicine, Nationality

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