A FOI request to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has revealed that 569 employees including doctors and nurses come from the EU and it is not clear how many of them will have the right to remain at the end of the Brexit process in two years time. This number makes up almost 10% of the total workforce of the Local NHS Trust which is already under pressure to maintain services. Various national media reports of surveys on the matter indicate that around 40% of NHS EU employees will not remain. Many residents in Hollingbourne rely upon medical services from the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.
Other Brexit concerns of particular interest to Hollingbourne and other communities along the M20 and M2 corridors is the possibility of no Customs Union in place after Brexit which could mean major traffic jams in Dover and Calais which could lead to Operation Stack on a frequent basis. Last year some 16 million passengers crossed between Dover and Calais and a further 10 million used the Tunnel. Between the two services some 3 million trucks were carried as well as millions of cars.
If each of these movements have to go through Customs there could be serious traffic jams on the M20 in particular which could cause traffic issues for Hollingbourne which is next to Junction 8 on the M20. HMRC Customs are reported as having concerns that they will be able to administer the numbers of vehicles and passengers that will have to be processed through Customs. Guinness who brew in Dublin and can in Belfast have publicly stated that the post Brexit border customs delays will add 15 minutes to each journey and add £50 to freight costs for each journey. If HMRC have sufficient resources at Dover and their French counterparts in Calais have enough as well then some 750,000 hours each year will be spent processing just the trucks that cross the Channel. As it is unlikely that HMRC and the French will have the resources including the necessary parking spaces the possibility of traffic logjams affecting Kent are significant.
EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has predicted traffic chaos for Dover and Calais if vehicles and passengers cannot cross the Channel freely as they can at present. Any major traffic issues will impact on the M20 and the surrounding communities including Hollingbourne.
Another issue raised at a Post Referendum Meeting organised by local MP Mrs Helen Whately last Autumn in Lenham Community Centre was the future availability of seasonal workers from the EU for work on local farms. Recruitment problems may also affect the the Kent hospitality, tourism, and building industries. During the latest campaign against development at Junction 8 it became clear that the largest local employment sector is hospitality and tourism with Leeds Castle employing some 350 with many EU nationals working in local hotels, public houses, and restaurants.
Hopefully these issues will be addressed as early as possible over the next two years although the latest national media reports suggest that trade and customs matters will not be discussed until after March 2019.
Please see below for the text of the response from the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust to the FOI request.
Ref: FOI/CAD/ID 3892
Please reply to:
28 March 2017
Dear Mr Cobbett
Freedom of Information Act 2000
I am writing in response to your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in relation to non-UK EU national staff.
How many doctors, nurses, and other staff do you employ who are EU nationals and what percentage of your total establishment is made up of EU nationals?
The Trust can confirm that there are 569 staff members with a non-UK EU nationality within the Trust. This comprises 9.67% of the overall workforce.
The Trust is not able to comment on the impact of any changes on these individual staff members.
If you have any queries about this letter please do not hesitate to contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write in the first instance to:
Mr Glenn Douglas
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Kent ME16 9QQ