THE NHS must prioritise keeping doctors and nurses in the county after Brexit, one of the county’s health chiefs has said – as the health service starts setting out what it hopes to look like in the next 10 years.

Simon Trickett, accountable officer for the three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in South Worcestershire, said keeping staff already in the health service should be a “real priority for us all” as the country prepares for leaving the European Union.

He said: “Clearly retaining those people that we currently have working in the system should be a real priority for us all. That’s for the health service and a lot of other public services. The workforce challenge won’t get any easier."

The NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out what the health service plans to do in the next decade, promises 25 per cent more nurse undergraduate places from next year as well a 50 per cent increase in new nursing associates and 1,500 more medical school places.

At a meeting of Worcestershire County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee Councillor Fran Oborski said: “We have got something between 250 and 300 EU nationals working in the NHS in Worcestershire at the moment and across the country it’s literally thousands. What worries me here is the figures might not even plug the gap of the people we are likely to lose after Brexit.”

Cllr Chris Bloore said: “No matter how much more money is coming in, none of it will be realised if we can’t get the workforce in place.

“It really concerns me that this 10-year-plan was put forward yet the workforce plan, which is the most fundamental part of implementing it, is still being kicked down the road.”

A more detailed NHS workforce plan is expected later in the year but Mr Trickett said money meant nothing if the staff were not in place.

He said: “You could double the money in the NHS but unless you double the workforce it won’t make any difference."

Mr Trickett said the NHS was now dealing with the consequences of its previous attitude of planning for the future with less staff.

He said: “Fundamentally, that was quite a significant mistake. We are now dealing with some of the consequences of those planning decisions.

"I do think [the NHS 10-year-plan] reads as though there is a real recognition, finally, that this is the thing that has got to change most. The numbers in the document around some of the investment in nursing and medical school places are really welcome but I don’t think we can kid ourselves that it is a quick fix. It’s going to be 10 years before GPs come out of medical school and go into GP roles.”

Frances Howie, director of public health at Worcestershire County Council, said a career in social care needed to be made more attractive.

She said: “The health and social care profession has fallen out of favour and it’s not something that is valued out there. We haven’t got school leavers longing for those careers and I think we must all do whatever we can to promote the value of careers in health and social care.”