NHS hospitals in east Kent are facing a bill of thousands of pounds to keep EU workers on after Brexit.
The East Kent Hospitals trust, which runs the Kent & Canterbury Hospital, Ashford's William Harvey and Margate's QEQM, has confirmed it will foot the costs for staff to apply for "settled status" ahead of the UK's departure from the European Union next March at a price of £65 per person.
This is likely to cost the trust, which employs about 300 staff from other European countries in a "wide range" of jobs across its five sites, in the region of £19,500.
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The NHS has more than 60,000 EU employees nationally, making up more than 5% of the workforce, and health bosses including NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens have warned that Brexit could worsen existing staff shortages.
East Kent Hospitals has 8,000 staff in total and says it does not know exactly what proportion come from the EU because it does not ask this question during the hiring process.
But the trust has decided to cover the visa costs regardless, calling the sum "a small token showing we value our workforce".
EU nationals who wish to stay in the UK after Brexit will need to register for "settled" or "pre-settled" status from March 2019, but NHS employees are eligible to apply early under a pilot scheme which launches on November 29.
This gives the right to live and work in the UK and to eventually apply for British citizenship, while those who don't register may have to leave the country by December 2020.
Read Full Article: Keeping EU staff after Brexit could cost East Kent Hospitals £19,500