Tougher rules, rather than a reaction to Brexit, are behind a fall in the numbers of nurses from the European Union seeking work in Britain, Lynn hospital bosses say.
Figures released this week said there had been a 96 per cent drop in the level of applications from EU staff to work here since last June’s referendum.
But officials believe more stringent language tests are the main cause of the fall.
Val Newton, deputy chief nurse at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said “The Trust has seen a reduction of nurses from Europe applying for registration from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and for jobs within the Trust since January 2016.
“This reduction followed the introduction by the NMC of the international English language test which requires all nurses from Europe to achieve level seven prior to their registration.
“Therefore we are unable to say what impact Brexit contributed to the decline in applications.
“We continue to actively recruit nurses both nationally and from overseas, offering support to those affected by the new legislation, and welcome any prospective nurses to contact us to discuss vacancies.”
The figures say only 46 EU nurses had joined its register in April this year, compared to 1,304 in July 2016.
The Health Foundation, an independent charity which obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request, said they should be a “wake-up call” to politicians and health service bosses.
There have also been renewed calls for EU staff to be given assurances about their future by the government before Brexit negotiations begin.
But the NMC insists the stricter English language requirements being imposed on recruits was also likely to be a factor.