Official data indicates that the number of nurses from EU countries leaving the NHS is increasing rapidly.
This figure was nearly 40% higher over the last 12 months in comparison to the previous year.
It is widely believed that the results of the EU membership referendum have had a serious impact on nursing numbers.
Many believe that it will ultimately lead to a workforce crisis within the healthcare system.
Overall, the number of EU staff leaving the NHS in the year to December 2016 increased by 21% from 7,477 in 2015 to 9,023, according to data from NHS Digital.
While more than 3,480 EU nurses left the NHS during 2016 – a 38% rise on the 2,520 who left the 12 months before.
Analysis conducted by the Health Foundation previously suggested that there could be a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2026, albeit in a worst case scenario.
But this was echoed by internal modelling conducted by the Department of Health, suggesting that the worst fears may indeed be realised.
Recruitment to the nursing profession has also proved difficult since the government announced its decision to scrap bursaries for nurses.
This is making it difficult for many young people to enter the nursing profession, particularly from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Dame Professor Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, commented on at the figures, expressing her concern over the future of nursing.
“The data is worrying. In 2010 the government turned off the supply of nurses and they were warned about that and now we are seeing these people leave at the moment the NHS is in a staffing crisis. People will leave if they don’t feel welcome; they don’t know what the outcome of the negotiations will be. We are losing time and the government needs to make this a priority.”
And Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, part of the Cavendish Coalition, suggested that the government must make provisions to EU healthcare staff in order to help guarantee quality of patient care.
“The coalition continues to call on any future government to provide firm assurances on the right to remain in the UK for all those from the European Economic Area working in health and social care. They and their families need this confirmation quickly, which will provide certainty for them and stability for employers.”
The Royal College of Nursing has already asked staff to be provided with special recognition under any post-Brexit immigration regulations, with this having been acknowledged in the Conservative party election manifesto.