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GMC issues workforce warning in case of ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Brexit uncertainty threatens a sufficient supply of doctors in the NHS at a time when the profession is at a ‘critical juncture’, the GMC has warned.

This comes as a GMC survey found nearly two in five GPs (38%) are planning to leave UK clinical practice in the next three years, while over a quarter (28%) are planning to go part time or reduce their hours.

The warning is contained within the GMC’s annual The state of medical education and practice in the UK report.

The report called for 'clarity' from the UK Government on how EEA-qualified doctors – who currently make up 9% of UK-licenced doctors - will join the medical register after Brexit so that systems can be put in place.

The report said: ‘The UK needs to continue to make the EEA graduates who are already here, and want to stay and develop their career in the UK feel welcome.

‘There must be routes onto the register for EEA graduates in the future, so the UK can continue to benefit from a flow of doctors into the UK. We have written to Brexit ministers on this and we will continue to engage with them.’

The GMC has also proposed solutions to ensure supply and retention of doctors in the NHS long-term plan, which is expected to be published this month. 

These include increasing capacity at testing centres for the rise in international doctors wishing to sit the two-part test of skills and language needed to work in the UK.

The report said: ‘As well as setting a compelling vision for the next 10 years, these strategies must also address clear and present dangers, such as the potential cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit and some of the workplace culture issues...

‘The status of EEA qualified doctors already registered in the UK is guaranteed. But it is crucial that in whatever scenario we face after March 2019, the tap is not turned off in enabling EEA doctors to come and work in the UK in future.’

GMC chair Professor Sir Terence Stephenson said: ‘Doctors are telling us clearly that the strain that the system is under is having a direct effect on them, and on their plans to continue working in that system…

‘There are different challenges in each of the four countries of the UK but the NHS is at a critical juncture; without a long-term UK-wide plan to ensure it has a workforce with the right skills in the right places and without the right support, doctors will come under even greater strain.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This report echoes our continued warnings on the scale of the workforce crisis facing the NHS, and should serve as a wake-up call to the Government, policymakers and health bosses as to what we can expect from the future…

‘It is positive to see the GMC recognising the pressures doctors are under, noting that the profession is on the brink of “breaking point”, and laying out ways to begin addressing this.

‘There must be a UK-wide approach to tackling the workforce crisis and the underlying system pressures that are compounding the retention of highly-skilled doctors.’

Results from the GMC's survey of UK doctors

In the next three years:

  • A third of all doctors (32%) are planning to leave clinical practice in the UK (38% of GPs)
  • A fifth (21%) of doctors are considering reducing their hours (28% of GPs);
  • A further fifth of doctors plan to leave the UK to work abroad as a result of heavy workloads.

Meanwhile, in the past year a quarter (25%) of doctors felt unable to cope with their workload at least once a week, and two fifths (40%) at least once a month.

Source: GMC-commissoned survey of 2,602 UK doctors

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Readers' comments (17)

  • ‘Breaking News’???

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  • Only for the last decade or so!

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  • David Banner

    Recruitment crisis?? Must be Project Fear again, we’re awash with GPs desperate to become partners, new surgeries are springing up everywhere, profits are booming, and job satisfaction is at an all time high. The GMC should stop talking down the profession, after all, it’s never been a better time to be a GP.

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  • It shows the organisation has too much free time and too much staff issuing useless warnings that is not going to change anything.

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  • Lol this made me piss myself laughing. Even if true, they clearly don't know the phrase "short-term pain for long-term gain", that every parent knows...

    Again I point out, the Icelanders and Norwegians must be dying on the streets being outside of the EU and having a workforce crisis in their health service, oh wait, they're not...

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  • Perhaps pay will have to increase after all

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  • Christopher Ho, weren't doctors in Iceland on rolling strikes over pay through 2014/15?

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  • Vinci Ho

    While I am more than happy to enjoy this political drama unfolding in House of Commons like a Netflix TV series right now , we all seem to fall into this trap of ‘killing’ each other morally until we felt we had found the truth .
    The distraction ,gulf and polarisation created by this historic event namely Brexit , had evidently split the country into two halves , ironically under the name of democracy. While I still agree with Churchill that (liberal) democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time, how all of us and our government have been behaving is exactly against the ideals of liberal democracy in the last two and half years . The disrespect towards each other , twisting of certain facts , marginalisation of ‘oppositions’ . Whatever religion one belongs to , I wonder how the divine power up there is seeing us?
    The fact that the original referendum result of having a winner and a loser by a narrow margin , never really had alerted us to consciously avoid confrontations . We are still highly judgemental against each other on the two ends .
    And I remember from my days of GP vocational training over 20 years ago , that the first thing in connecting with our patients is NOT to be judgemental. What are we doing right now ?
    It is of my opinion that we , doctors with a duty of care , should keep our opinions and more essentially , speculations about Brexit to ourselves . The only truth here is nobody can foresee tomorrow.
    BMA , RCGP and now GMC , should all step back to let whatever will be , will be ,as far as Brexit outcomes are concerned.

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  • Copernicus, and your point is?

    Guess what - they have a socialised universal healthcare service... maybe some correlation there eh

    The GMC's point is about recruitment and retention. Brexit may influence that in some way, and that influence may differ over time. But I think we'll survive eh. Their survey showed lotsa doctors wanting to leave, but that's cos the job is sh*te, not cos of brexit lol

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  • The GMC has yet to apologise for the Witch Finding Years . They might reflect on their own role in contributing to this "critical juncture" and then recant publicly to the doctors driven innocently into early retirement and to the profession as a whole for their system wide calamitous loss of judgement.

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