Concerns over the impact Brexit may have on staff recruitment and retention in Shetland were raised at the latest meeting of the isles’ health and social care partnership.
Integration joint board (IJB) vice-chairman Allison Duncan suggested that some European health workers in Shetland might want to return to their homeland when the UK leaves the EU.
The local health board is already struggling to fill vacancies for posts like GPs and anaesthetics, with its bill for temporary locum cover set to rise to around £1.7 million this year.
It is thought that around ten per cent of NHS Shetland’s workforce is from other EU countries.
Chief IJB officer Simon Bokor-Ingram said the health board is doing all it can to make sure EU workers are feeling “extremely welcome” in the isles.
But he admitted that some people have “thought twice” about coming to work in the UK to work in light of the impending exit from the EU.
There is a “nervousness of what Brexit will mean,” Mr Bokor-Ingram said.
At the last meeting of the IJB in February, Hillswick GP Susan Bowie also suggested that Brexit could have a negative effect on recruitment.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts told IJB members on Thursday that because the UK has gone down a more “specialist approach to training”, the health board often has to look outside the UK for staff.
Duncan also asked if there is a “plan B” in place should there be shortfall of staff after Brexit.
“We don’t know what the deal is going to be,” Bokor-Ingram replied, referring to the exit arrangements between the UK and the EU.
“I hope that people from outside the UK are welcome.”
He raised the idea of extra training places being on offer – but the effects of that may only be truly felt in 10 to 15 years.