The leader of the Liberal Democrats has warned about the potential consequences of Peterborough City Hospital losing European staff due to a no deal Brexit on a visit yesterday afternoon.
Vince Cable said he was impressed with how the hospital was preparing for Brexit but warned that recruitment problems could be made worse.
Speaking after he had been given a tour of the hospital by staff, he told the Peterborough Telegraph: "They seem very well organised and very well prepared and there was no sense of panic.
"The deeper, longer term issue is about staff - about 500 of those 6,500 staff come from abroad, quite a lot of them from Europe. Potentially if things go wrong they will lose them.
"They have a big vacancy rate. They are not able to recruit locally at the scale that they want, so they are bringing people in - some of them from the Philippines and India for nursing. But there's a senior German doctor - one of the key people in the hospital - and quite a lot of Europeans. And if they lost them it would be a serious blow."
Mr Cable was speaking to the PT ahead of a Q&A with Liberal Democrat members at the Peterborough United stadium in London Road.
Asked for his message to the people of Peterborough, of whom 61 per cent voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, he said: "People voted Leave for a variety of reasons. I think in the two-and-a-half years since that happened a lot has changed.
"I think a lot of the things people believed were going to happen - for instance, a lot of money for the NHS - are now being regarded as not serious.
"What my party's arguing for is we go back to the people and ask them if they're happy with the Government deal or if they would rather Remain. That's a perfectly fair, democratic question to ask people."
Mr Cable also called for city residents to remove MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya should a recall petition open up in the future.
Ms Onasanya is currently serving a three month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice after lying about who was driving her car when it was caught speeding.
The MP - who was expelled by Labour the day after her conviction - is challenging her appeal. Should she be unsuccessful a recall petition would automatically open up. If 10 per cent of her constituents signed it within six weeks then it would trigger a by-election, which she could stand in.
Mr Cable said he was not interested in changing the law to automatically expel MPs in prison, but he added: "It is a bizarre situation. It's important for Peterborough to be represented, and if she can't win her appeal it's important you have a by-election as soon as possible."
Mr Cable also said he was confident of a good performance in the local elections, where his party are looking to increase their share of city councillors from seven in the 60 seat authority.
He added: "We have a very good council group. They are working hard and are hoping to win a few seats. They are confident of advancing their position."
The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Peterborough City Hospital, said nobody was available to be interviewed following Mr Cable's visit.
But in a statement, chief executive Caroline Walker said: “I’d like to thank Mr Cable for taking the time to visit our hospital and listening to our plans for tackling the challenges of both the EU exit and the increasing demand for emergency care.
“We showed him around ward A8 which cares for our renal patients, where he was able to meet staff, including some who have been recruited from the EU. We were pleased to have the opportunity to show him our fantastic services and facilities and to show him how compassionate and dedicated our staff are.”