Guardian item says Brexit caused “nurse of the year” to have mental breakdown
Nursing leader Joan Pons Laplana left Spain for the U.K. in 2000, and now he has a family there. But the Guardian reports that he has been deeply concerned about the effects a no-deal Brexit would have on his ability to stay. The piece also explains that Brexit anxiety has driven away record numbers of other European Union nurses, threatening patient safety in the already-understaffed National Health Service.
October 3, 2019 – Today the Guardian ran a short piece headlined “Britain’s ‘nurse of the year’ blames Brexit for mental breakdown.” The report by Nazia Parveen says that Joan Pons Laplana, who came to Britain from Spain in 2000, has attributed his distressed mental state to concerns about a possible “no deal” exit from the European Union. He fears that would threaten his ability to continue working and living in the U.K. with his wife and three children. The piece notes that Laplana was named “nurse of the year” in 2018 by the British Journal of Nursing, and that he recently ran as a candidate to represent his east Midlands area in the European Parliament. The article also explains that many U.K. health workers originally from other E.U. nations have left since the Brexit referendum passed in 2016. Meanwhile, fewer new health workers have sought to come and practice in Britain, all of which threatens the already-distressed National Health Service. The piece might have cited an outside nurse expert about these broader trends and about the threats to patients when there are not enough nurses in the clinical setting. It might also have noted that Laplana’s “nurse of the year” recognition was based on his work promoting changes to enhance patient safety, including through public health campaigns. But overall the piece offers a striking example of the effects immigration restrictions can have on nursing practice and on health, through the example of one nursing leader. We thank Nazia Parveen and the Guardian.
The piece reports that Joan Pons Laplana has blamed the lengthy uncertainty and fear that a no-deal Brexit could put his job at risk for a “mental breakdown.” After Laplana came to the U.K. from Spain in 2000, he pursued a nursing career, married his long-term partner, and helped to raise their three children, who are now aged 17, 14, and 8. The piece notes that the British Journal of Nursing named him “nurse of the year” in 2018. Laplana also reportedly ran as an Independent Group for Change candidate for the European Parliament from the nation’s east Midlands area. He says Brexit was mainly responsible for a decline in his mental health over the preceding three months; he explains that every day he has anxiety and fatigue. Laplana is permitted to remain in Britain for now, but he worries that may change, as his status is all “on a system at the Home Office. I am actually scared that my future is in their hands.” Laplana also argues that Brexit is making it hard for NHS “nurses and doctors to do their jobs properly.” Indeed, according to the piece, the fear of a no-deal Brexit—in which the U.K. leaves without arrangements in place about matters such as rights to live and work in the nation—is having widespread effects on national health.
With the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October, reports suggest European nationals are quitting their NHS jobs because of the uncertainty. Record numbers of nurses and midwives from EU27 countries left Britain following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, deepening the NHS’s chronic staffing crisis. Laplana said: “…Because there are colleagues leaving the NHS, it’s getting difficult to provide safe care. Nurses and doctors will be making more mistakes and that costs lives. … Laplana said many colleagues, rather than apply for settled status, “have all left for Ireland or other countries.”
The report does get a response from the U.K. government, whose spokesperson encourages E.U. workers to apply for status under the “EU settlement scheme.” If granted, that provides “a secure digital status which, unlike a physical document, cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with.”
This short piece has several good aspects. First, it tells readers that nurses receive “nurse of the year awards”—you can excel at being a nurse—and that the profession has professional journals. Laplana’s story also suggests that nurses can aspire to important policy-making positions, in light of his campaign for the European Parliament. In addition, the article underlines the threat to public health when nurses are understaffed, explaining that the resulting errors can cost lives. And the report shows that nurse immigrants play a key role in the quality of health care in the U.K. and by implication other industrialized nations. The causes and effects of global nursing migration flows are important, as Mireille Kingma and others have explained. The piece might have done more to explore that, as well as to explain more precisely how understaffing threatens patients, as many studies have shown—nursing is a skilled heath profession whose members hold lives in their hands. Finally, the piece might have mentioned why the British Journal of Nursing named Laplana nurse of year. The award recognized Laplana’s “role in encouraging change and promoting patient safety” at James Paget University Hospital, including by promoting public health campaigns to reduce sepsis and increase flu vaccinations. It appears that Laplana now serves as Lead Nurse at PatientSource and is involved with digital projects.
See the article by Nazia Parveen “Britain’s ‘nurse of the year’ blames Brexit for mental breakdown: Joan Pons Laplana says fears over no-deal Brexit caused mental health to deteriorate,” published on October 3, 2019 in The Guardian. You can reach the author at @NParveenG.