A survey of UK nurses carried out by their professional publication has found a narrow lead in support for Leave over Remain at the upcoming referendum.
A poll of 500 nurses conducted for Nursing Times shows has revealed 43 per cent of respondents will vote to leave the European Union (EU) in the upcoming referendum. 41 per cent look likely to be voting for the Remain option and 15 per cent have not yet made up their minds.
As with every other sector of society, when the nurses who responded are broken down in terms of age Leave proved more popular with the older voter — those in the 36-55 bracket. For those aged 17-35 Remain wins their vote.
Some of the findings reported by Nursing Times showed glaring differences between members of the same profession. One nurse expressed the belief that the “[National Health Service] will do fine if Britain votes to leave,” while another declared that “the NHS would crumble without staff and especially nurses from the EU.”
Other nurses reportedly spoke of their concern surrounding the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal — TTIP — repeating the concerns of others, such as former Minister for Health and Foreign Secretary Lord Owen, that it could lead to more NHS services being privatised.
When asked specifically whether remaining in the EU would be better for the nursing workforce in terms of supply of staff to the health and care sector in the UK, 42 per cent backed Remain versus 28 per cent Leave.
Another specific question related to employment rights and health and safety at work, in reply to which 44 per cent thought the Remain option confers the better outcome, compared to 19 per cent for Leave.
The other question which produces a positive result for Leave relates to nurses’ pay. 31 per cent of them thought a Brexit would be better for pay, versus 29 per cent who said remaining would be. 25 per cent said the referendum result would make no difference at all.
The respective campaigns’ messaging on the NHS in relation to the EU was also polled. Nursing Times said it shows the Leave campaign is conveying its message more effectively, with 45 per cent of respondents believing that a Brexit would be better for NHS finances. 29 per cent backed staying in, and just 11 per cent said the result would make no difference.
The backing of professional organisations and trade unions has not been helpful to either campaign. The poll showed nurses did not put much stock in the officially declared support from Unison and the Royal College of Midwives. The largest single response, from 36 per cent, said no organisations outside of the officially designated campaigns should actively back one side or the other.
In this the Royal College of Nursing appears to have acted best, having declared itself neutral while urging members to vote.