Jeremy Hunt appeared to drop warnings that a hard Brexit means “people fleeing the UK” after the phrase was photographed in his Commons briefing notes.
The Health Secretary was pictured in Downing Street holding a document which included a response to a forthcoming Commons question from Liberal Democrat former minister Alistair Carmichael about the NHS post-Brexit workforce.
Mr Hunt repeated the first section about the desire to give the 150,000 EU nationals working in the NHS the opportunity to continue doing their “brilliant job”.
But the next section photographed said a “Hard Brexit means people fleeing the UK” and criticised the Lib Dem approach to Brexit.
Mr Hunt did not mention this as he replied to Mr Carmichael’s follow-up question, which asked if the devolved administrations and recruitment sector will be involved in developing plans.
The Cabinet minister outlined the number of doctors and nurses from the EU who work in the NHS before insisting there is a need for every party to “reassure” them about their “bright and vital future” in the health service.
He attempted to paint a rosier picture in response to a later question by giving the figures for the number of EU doctors and nurses who joined the NHS after the EU referendum.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hunt said: “The 150,000 EU nationals working in our health and care services do a brilliant job and we want them to continue doing it.
“I am in regular talks with Cabinet colleagues to inform both domestic workforce plans and the Government’s negotiations with the EU.”
Mr Carmichael, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, thanked Mr Hunt for the answer and added: “You will be aware that actually represents something in excess of 5% of the total workforce within the NHS.
“This is something that is going to have to be addressed, engaging with the recruitment sector, the employment sector and indeed the devolved administrations. Is that the way the minister will handle this?”
Mr Hunt replied: “We absolutely will be taking a UK-wide approach.
“The actual numbers are slightly higher than the numbers you talk about for England, where about 9% of doctors are EU nationals and about 19% of nurses are EU nationals.
“But we are still seeing doctors and nurses coming to the UK and we need to do everything on all sides of this House to reassure them that we see them as having a bright and vital future in the NHS.”