I appreciate that leaving the European Union poses uncertainty to our country's future and our public services. I would like to pay tribute to the 62,000 EU nationals who work in the NHS, and commend the care and compassion they provide.
I believe we must do all we can to support the NHS, and I have the utmost confidence in my ministerial colleagues in their efforts to ensure that the UK not only concludes an excellent deal with our European partners, but also maintains this country's reputation as a fantastic place to live and work.
In the year following the EU referendum, the number of EU nationals working in the NHS actually increased by 5.6 per cent. I note that, unfortunately, there was a small fall in the number of nurses and health visitors from the EU during this time, however there are a variety of factors which could account for this, notably the introduction of a new English language test for NHS staff from the EU and falling unemployment in countries such as Spain and Poland, which had previously contributed many nurses to the NHS.
Furthermore, I think it is important to note that in the North West, 93% of NHS employees are UK nationals and of the remaining 7%, the majority are nationals of non-EU countries. In addition, the largest group of EU nationals working in the NHS is Irish. The right of Irish citizens to work in the UK has been enshrined in The Common Travel Area (CTA) since 1925. I warmly welcome the fact that both the UK and Irish Governments, as well as the EU, have pledged to uphold the CTA after the UK leaves the EU.
The Government has also been embarking on one of the largest recruitment drives in the NHS. Today, there are over 14,000 more nurses and over 11,000 more doctors in NHS wards than in 2010, as well as a further 50,000 nurses in training. Furthermore, the Government recently announced an extra 1,500 training places for doctors, and over 5,000 more trainee nurses, a 25 per cent increase. I believe that these efforts will significantly support NHS staffing, and safeguard the NHS for the future.