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Four in ten European GPs intend to leave the UK following Brexit

Close to half of EU nationals working as doctors, including as GPs, in the NHS are planning to leave the UK when the country exits the EU.

A BMA survey of over a thousand doctors, almost 300 of which were GPs, found that 42% are already considering leaving the country, with a further 23% saying they were unsure. Of GPs, 38% expressed an intention to leave the UK.

The BMA - which said there are some 10,000 doctors in the UK who qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA), or 6.6% of the workforce - found that while doctors still feel valued by their patients, they feel 'significantly' less valued by the Government following the referendum.

Findings of the BMA's EU doctor survey

  • More than four out of ten (42%) are considering leaving the UK following the referendum vote, with a further quarter (23%) unsure.
  • On a scale of one to 10, European doctors stated they feel substantially less appreciated by the UK Government in light of the EU referendum result. The average rating dropped from seven out of 10 before the referendum, to less than four out of 10 after the referendum.
  • On a scale of one to 10, European doctors stated they feel significantly less committed to working in the UK in light of the EU referendum result. From an average rating of nine out of 10 before the referendum, commitment dropped to an average of six out of 10 after the result.
  • European doctors felt highly appreciated by patients before the EU referendum result, and this continues to be the case.

Source: BMA survey of 1,193 NHS doctors who are EU nationals, including 279 GPs

The news comes as NHS England is defying Brexit and pushing ahead with trying to recruit hundreds of new GPs from the EU with a guaranteed £90,000 salary.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said the potential exodus of EU doctors would 'be a disaster' for the NHS, which would 'threaten' the quality of patient care.

Dr Porter said: 'Many [doctors] from the EU are left feeling unwelcome and uncertain about whether they and their families will have the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

'These are the people who staff our hospitals and GP surgeries, look after vulnerable patients in the community, and conduct vital medical research to help save lives.

'Many have dedicated years of service to healthcare in the UK, so it’s extremely concerning that so many are considering leaving.'

He said this comes 'at a time when the NHS is already at breaking point and facing crippling staff shortages', with data showing that the number of doctor vacancies 'increased by around 60% between 2013 and 2015'.

He said: 'The Government must act now to ensure long-term stability across the healthcare system by providing certainty to medical professionals from the EU about their future in the UK.

'It must also ensure that a future immigration system allows the NHS to continue employing EU and overseas doctors to fill staff shortages in the health service.'

Dr Porter has already written to the Prime Minister Theresa May to request an urgent meeting to discuss consequences of Brexit for EU doctors working in the UK.

But Ms May indicated in a speech last month that she would not give guarantees to any EU nationals living in the UK until there were reciprocal arrangements for UK nationals living elsewere in the EU.

Dr Birgit Woolley, who has practiced as a GP in Worthing, West Sussex, for 20 years but is originally from Germany, said this made her feel like she was being used as a 'bargaining chip'.

She said: ‘It is unsettling that in a country I have contributed to for twenty years and consider home, I am now seen as a foreigner and have to prove that I deserve to live and work here.

'I feel supported by my patients. But the reality is that the Government does not appreciate what EU nationals like me have contributed to the UK, and only see us as bargaining chips.’

NHS England's targeting of EU GPs

NHS England is set to push ahead with its plan to recruit hundreds of GPs from Europe, despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt's pledge last year for the NHS to start relying on 'homegrown' doctors.

The GP Forward View outlined NHS England’s plan to attract 500 GPs of its 5,000 GP target from overseas.

The £20 million scheme to help ease the GP recruitment crisis will see GPs from EU countries working at practices across the UK from October.

Pulse revealed last summer that Lincolnshire LMC had been working with European medical recruiters to attract GPs to work in the county. GPs from Poland, Romania and Spain have been targeted and 13 GPs have been recruited so far.

Readers' comments (10)

  • It's not only EU doctors feel less appreciated in UK. In fact every doctor in UK feels less appreciated by government whether home grown or immigrant, whether hospital or GP. Empty promises of worthless politicians does not make us believe in what they say unless we see real action/commitment/ desire to solve the problems.

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  • That's the NHS for you; recruit Europeans to come and work in Lincolnshire the most pro-Brexit county from recollection?

    My partner goes next year, he's Dutch and will be final nail in coffin of our practice I guess? Unless I wish to be swallowed up in the world of the "generic federation"

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  • It was the most biased survey I have ever seen, packed with questions leading you to admit that "Brexit is awful" and "since Brexit my patients hate me".
    Even the Guardian wouldn't have drafted such a loaded survey. But even if it is true, let's have another survey to find out how many doctors from the Commonwealth will be coming to Britain after Brexit.

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  • Azeem Majeed

    For many decades, the NHS has faced shortages in its clinical workforce and has relied heavily on overseas trained doctors, nurses and other health professionals to fill these gaps. This reliance on overseas-trained staff will not end in the foreseeable future.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I can understand the argument that this survey could be coming from the Remoaners. The bottom line here , however, is about how much repect this government paying us , GPs(wherever your origin is). Reality is it needs us more than we need from it. The target of 5000 by 2020 is never going to be reached with this bigotry and attitude from the prime minister . Time will definitely tell. The social norm of NHS relying on medical professionals from abroad , whether inside or outside EU , is not going to change. Auntie May can choose the option of burying her head in the sand , no matter what and the consequences are there for her bear as far as history is concerned.
    Brexit is a reality but how it is going to happen is another story.

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  • Vinci Ho

    By the way , apart from Remoaners , another new word added to our dictionary is Bregretters........

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  • Great news indeed!! Just what we wanted to look forward to as if we haven't got enough workforce problems!! So we can look forward to an even more shrunken workforce expected to do more work than before? I weep in anticipation.

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  • Doctors from EU or non EU are already leaving.NHS has become a difficult place to work with little investment.

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  • Life for doctors has become harder even in the EU .Thanks to the politcians who forgot who votes them.But maybe we get our Donald here AS well to make US great again?!

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  • Afte 24 years on planet NHS as EU migrant GP, this article reflects the way I feel post BREXIT...
    Not only have we endured years of negative press and sexed up claims of our overinflated income, the ever increasing political interference and constant reorganisation of the NHS and primary care, increasing workload due to growing and ageing and demanding population. We are now also contending with a sharp drop in numbers of recruits and the looming mass exodus due to a wave of retirements.
    .....and now this, BREXIT, well done !
    I think, I may speak for many EEA citizens / 'EU economic migrants', many of us feel less welcome and appreciated now, even those of us playing a vital role in the UK. Not to mention our high tax rate and negligible use of benefits.
    The new GP recruitment drive n Europe makes me laugh, I can think of a few rude gestures from across the English Channel. Good luck with that to Jeremy Hunt and his little helpers ! Maybe Amazon can help him find those promised 5000 GPs.
    End of rant

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