The Brexit referendum has caused thousands of EU nationals to quit the U.K.s National Health Service, according to data released today following a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Liberal Democrats.
The data show that more than 11,600 have left since the 2016 referendum.
The Liberal Democrats are using the new numbers as a cudgel against the Torys NHS plans.
“These damning documents reveal the major threat Brexit poses to our NHS, including in Boris Johnsons own backyard, where EU staff are worried about their future here,” Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Luciana Berger wrote in a press release.
But the data point to a more ambiguous picture on the referendums effect.
In 2015, 3,504 EU nationals left the NHS. That rose to 4,062 in 2016 and then 4,335 in 2017. It dropped slightly to 4,013 in 2018. So far, the number is at 3,252 for 2019, about half of which are nurses.
However, those data cover only 50 out of 135 NHS trusts, so the actual numbers of staff leaving might be higher, according to the Guardian.
More broadly, information on NHS staff members nationalities is inconsistent, making it difficult to accurately track, according to Full Fact, the U.K.s independent fact checking organization.
The group issued an analysis in 2018 suggesting that the number of staff who say they are EU nationals remained steady between 2016 and 2018.
For their part, Tories claim the number of EU nationals working in the NHS has increased since the referendum.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised fast-track visas in early November for foreign doctors and nurses working in the NHS.