FEARS over the impact of Brexit on Oxfordshire’s hospitals have been heightened after it was revealed that more than one in five frontline nurses come from the EU.

According to analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) has the highest proportion of EU nurses of any trust outside London, at 21 per cent.

The trust, which runs the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals in Oxford, is already battling a recruitment and retention ‘crisis’ with the high cost of living in the area considered the main barrier to boosting staff numbers.

However, many fear Brexit could deepen the crisis even further if some of those EU nurses decide to leave the UK, or recruitment from EU countries falls.

The trust currently has around 450 nursing vacancies.

The current annual turnover of nurses and midwives is about 15 per cent, but of the 133 nurses who left in the past year, 108 were EU nationals.

Secretary of the Oxford European Association John Tanner said the figures showed the health services in the county was ‘absolutely dependent’ on EU staff.

He said: “Brexit is already damaging the health services in Oxfordshire.

“It’s a tragedy that nurses who contribute so much are now leaving the UK.

“That’s why we need to be giving extra guarantees to nurses from EU27 countries that they will continue to be welcome here in Oxford, whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations.”

Across the whole of NHS England five per cent of all staff are EU nationals

The figures released this week show a total of 10 per cent of doctors at OUH are from the EU, while European nationals make up 16 per cent of the trust’s frontline services overall.

Last month OUH chief executive Bruno Holthof revealed that EU staff leaving the trust since the referendum had left Oxfordshire’s hospitals ‘extremely short of people’ to care for patients.

A spokesman for the trust said: “EU staff are a long-standing and crucial part of our workforce.

“Many nurses come here to develop their skills and progress their careers because of the breadth of opportunity within Oxford University Hospitals.

“We continue to attract European nurses and nursing assistants, with a number of them joining us this coming week.”

The spokesman added: “Whilst Brexit does create some uncertainty, current guidance is that EU staff already working here will be able to continue to live and work in the country.

“Oxford University Hospitals has always attracted staff from across the world, including the EU, and we hope it will continue to do so.

"We have held successful recruitment events in India and the Philippines over the last 12 months and we are welcoming nurses each month from these countries over the next two years.”

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said yesterday: “Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust singles out nursing and midwifery as an area that has been particularly badly impacted by Brexit - and just a few weeks ago we saw how staff shortages are leading to the suspension of midwifery services in the county.

“The Prime Minister must get a grip of the situation, avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit that would lead to the stockpiling of drugs and medical supplies and make sure that there is nation-wide planning to help the NHS plan for and cope with the impacts of Brexit.

“I am also renewing my calls for the people to be given a say on the final Brexit deal once we know all the facts, so that the country can choose whether to accept the chaos and uncertainty caused by Brexit or whether they want to remain in the EU.”