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Government negotiators working to secure recognition of EU GPs after Brexit

GPs from the EU should continue to have their qualifications automatically recognised in the UK after Brexit, the Government has said.

In a speech, Brexit secretary David Davis said progress had been made on protecting qualifications both for EU citizens practising in the UK and UK citizens living in EU countries.

And, speaking to Pulse, the Department for Exiting the EU said it wants this to extend to GPs who arrive after the UK’s EU exit is completed – currently expected in March 2019.

The success of talks will prove vital to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose pledge to boost the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020 relies on some 2,000-3,000 GPs relocating to England from the EU.

NHS England is focusing its recruitment efforts on the EU where doctors’ qualifications have automatic recognition in other member states, subject to disciplinary or criminal sanction checks.

This means they can be recruited more swiftly than GPs from outside the continent and they are now expected to make up the lion’s share of the health secretary’s workforce pledge.

The policy paper published after a speech from Mr Davis following the end of the third round of negotiations last week, highlighted a number of areas of discussions with regards to recognition of qualifications.

Mr Davis said: ‘On mutual recognition of qualifications, we have made progress in protecting the recognition of qualifications for British citizens resident in the EU27 and EU27 citizens in the UK.’

Explaining the paper, which in addition to doctors affects lawyers, engineers, coach drivers and slaughtermen, a Brexit department spokesperson told Pulse the two sides in the negotiations are in agreement that a doctor from an EU state ‘should still have that recognition grandfathered [maintained despite a change in law] after exit’.

But they added that the British Government ‘would like to go further’ than that, ‘so that a doctor from an EU27 member state who holds a European qualification that would be recognised under the current system, but doesn’t currently live in the UK, should have the right to have their qualification recognised if they moved to the UK after exit’.

BMA GP Committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said the UK ‘will need GPs with the necessary qualifications from across Europe and elsewhere to fill the many vacancies that exist in struggling practices’.

But he lamented that more effort was not put into improving working conditions for GPs.

He said: ‘The Government’s promises of extra GPs have so far failed to deliver and that’s primarily because of failure to address the fundamental problems that discourage any doctor from becoming a GP.’

The news comes as the Guardian published a leaked Government document this week which said the UK would be more selective about immigration after Brexit, but which would see it taking a more lenient approach to high-skilled workers whose input would benefit the country.

But despite the approach, the BMA’s treasurer Dr Andrew Dearden expressed concern that the document would ‘worry the thousands of European doctors and other NHS staff working in the UK’ because it meant the end to free movement.

He added: ‘More than a year has passed since the referendum yet the Government has failed to produce any detail on what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK.’