Parliamentary report: non-British nationals an important minority of NHS staff

By Lauren Distler

A recent report by the House of Commons Library investigated the nationality makeup of the doctors, nurses and staff currently working for the NHS. The parliamentary report found that while the majority of NHS staff are British, a significant minority - 12% of all staff for whom nationality is known - report a nationality other than British.

The highest proportion of non-British staff is found among those working as doctors, where fully 26% of staff identify as having a nationality other than British. Non-British nationals also make up 16% of nurses, 9% of support staff and 7% of technical support staff.


Chart showing nationalities of NHS staff

The regional distribution of doctors with non-British nationalities working in the NHS is fairly consistent across Britain, with the highest percentage of British doctors found in the south-west (83%) and the lowest in the east of England (67%). Some categories, such as nurses, see greater variation: 96% of nurses in the north-east are British, whereas over one third of nurses in north-west London identify as a nationality other than British.

The largest group of non-British staff comes from the EU: 60,000 EU (non-British) nationals work for the NHS, making up 7.4% of nurses and 9.8% of doctors. The report notes that since the Brexit vote the government has sought to reassure NHS employees from the EU that they will still be welcome after the UK leaves the Union. However, the report warns that “even if the residency status of EU nationals working in the NHS is confirmed, it could become more difficult to retain staff and attract new recruits from EU countries, at a time when services are already under pressure”.


The parliamentary study uses self-reported nationality. The report cautions that this “may not always reflect the person’s citizenship or country of birth and can instead reflect cultural heritage”. Nationality is not known for about 7% of NHS staff.