Nursing leaders say hospitals are facing a perfect storm over staff shortages, with Brexit being a key factor.
Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing regional director with responsibility for Kent, said a combination of issues was making recruitment increasingly difficult.
She said in the immediate period after the referendum, many nurses from overseas had suffered abuse and been made to feel unwelcome.
“That was really problematic for a while. What has continued is the uncertainty about what Brexit will bring.
“Nursing is in demand worldwide, so the opportunity for staff to go back to their own countries or other countries is there, and people are beginning to explore those options.”
She said the introduction of English tests was also deterring would-be applicants as was the government’s decision to end bursaries for those training to become nurses at university.
“There has been a total lack of foresight in the training of people. There is a massive problem in recruitment in the UK because a decision was made that we needed fewer nurses now than we actually do.”
“So we have a perfect storm brewing. We already have 40,000 vacancies.”