The General Medical Council recently surveyed 2115 doctors from the European Economic Area currently practising in the UK in the attempt to find out how Brexit could impact on the NHS.

The results were quite alarming: over 60% of the participators said they would be leaving the country sooner or later. Many of them (91%) – stated Brexit as the main reason for their decision.

Although the survey was self-selecting and strictly speaking cannot be considered statistically correct, its results are extremely concerning – the number of EU doctors considering leaving UK is rising dramatically.

Just a few weeks earlier the BMA had carried out similar research to examine the NHS workforce in the light of Brexit.

The BMA study asked 1,193 respondents to see what European doctors who collectively make up almost 7% of doctors working in the NHS think about their post-Brexit perspectives in the UK.

Over 40% of those surveyed said they were considering leaving the UK as a result of last year’s referendum, whilst 23% said they were unsure.

The survey also found that European doctors felt significantly less committed to working in the UK.

What Does It Mean for the NHS?

There are about 135,000 EU nationals working in an NHS and social care system. The findings of the both surveys reveal that around half of them are considering leaving the UK. Their main concern is the effect Brexit will have on their working life and their right to stay in the country.

Charlie Massey, chief executive and registrar of the General Medical Council said at a session of the parliamentary health committee’s inquiry into the implications of Brexit, held on 28 February, that the Council tried its best to reassure EU medical professionals.

“EEA doctors make a huge and vital contribution to health services across the UK. We are clear that the registration of EEA doctors currently on our register will be unaffected by the UK’s departure from the EU. However, we recently surveyed 2115 EEA doctors practising in the UK, and they have told us that their future status here is a real concern.”

Charlie Massey

Concerns and worries of EU doctors are understandable – European and British governments are using their expats as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. So as long as there is no reassurance from the UK government, expat doctors in Britain cannot feel safe and committed to working in the NHS. To add to the unease there is a new government rhetoric about “home-grown” doctors, so no wonder that Europeans in the NHS feel not being wanted or valued.

“What we’re trying to model is, effectively, a policy of self-sufficiency so that we make sure that we train enough people in this country to meet the needs of the NHS”.

Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England

BMA is insisting the government supports EU doctors in the NHS

The BMA warns the Government that it needs to prioritise health in a post-Brexit UK, and do more to support European doctors and nurses in the NHS.

It recommends granting permanent residence to all European staff employed by UK hospitals, and making it easy in future to employ overseas doctors to fill in the vacancies. Otherwise the uncertainty caused by Brexit threatens to destabilise the entire NHS.

From the BMJ