Almost half of European Union (EU) doctors working in the UK are considering leaving following the EU referendum result, a British Medical Association (BMA) survey has revealed.
The survey of 1,720 European Economic Area (EEA) doctors working in the UK also found that almost one in five had already made solid plans to relocate elsewhere.
According to the doctors’ trade union, there are approximately 12,000 EEA doctors working in the NHS, which equates to 7.7% of the UK medical workforce. Many more work in public health and academic medicine. The BMA said recruiting from Europe had been “vital in dealing with staff shortages in UK health services, ensuring the NHS can provide high-quality, reliable and safe patient care”.
The survey, which was carried out between September and November 2017, revealed that 45% are considering leaving the UK following the referendum vote, with another 29% saying they are unsure about whether they will leave.
Of those considering leaving, more than a third (39%) have already made plans.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU, a current negative attitude toward EU workers in the UK, and continuing uncertainty over future immigration rules were cited as the top three reasons for wanting to leave, with 77% of respondents saying a negative outcome to Brexit negotiations on citizens’ rights would make them more likely to consider leaving the UK.
Germany, Spain and Australia are the top three countries that doctors are considering moving to.
Since the referendum, the BMA has been calling on the government to ensure it protects the long-term stability of health services across the UK after it leaves the EU. The doctors’ union stresses the need for a future immigration system that is “sufficiently flexible, protects EU doctors already working in the UK and enables overseas doctors to work in the UK in the future”.
The BMA’s top requests in Brexit negotiations include permanent residence for EU doctors and medical researchers currently in the UK, and a flexible immigration system which supports UK health and medical research.
Pharmacy has also been affected by the impact of Brexit. The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC ) highlighted in its Performance Monitoring Report (end of September 2017) that last year in the second quarter of the year (Q2) the council registered 102 EEA pharmacists, but in this last quarter the number had reduced to 20.
It said that “the noticeable drop in pharmacist registrations continues into Q2 compared with last year”, and that this “potentially reflects the impact of Brexit and our new English language requirements”.