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NHS risks losing over 2,000 family doctors due to Brexit, warns RCGP

Around 3.5 million patients are set to lose their family doctor because of Brexit, a leading group of GPs has today warned.

In new analysis by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), it was found that if Brexit leads to health workers from the EU being forced to leave the UK, 2,137 GPs would be lost across the UK – leaving nearly 3.5 million patients left without their GP.

GPs from Europe make up around 5% of the workforce, and their departure would strike a major blow to ambitions set out in the Five Year Forward View that aims to recruit 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs by 2020.

This has led the RCGP to again call on the government to secure the future of EU nationals working in the NHS – a point fellow health group the BMA has also voiced a number of times in the past.

The call from the RCGP comes after the Public Accounts Committee warned recently that NHS England would be facing an uphill battle increasing GP numbers as it had so far made “no progress” in achieving the target.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “We desperately need thousands more GPs right across the UK, and in England we have been promised 5,000 more by 2020 – but these figures indicate that we risk losing well over 2,000 family doctors from the NHS if their position is not secured as part of Brexit negotiations, and that is just not safe or acceptable.”

She added that EU nationals played a “vital role” in delivering care in the NHS, saying that losing the skill and expertise of these workers would be “disastrous for the sustainability of our health service, and our ability to deliver the care our patients need”. 

“It is essential that EU workers in general practice and across the health service continue to feel welcome, valued, and that their future is secure,” said Prof Stokes-Lampard. 

“We have a severe shortage of GPs and other practice staff across the UK and we are very grateful for the work that doctors from overseas are currently doing to deliver excellent patient care - and support us to meet the demands of our ageing and growing population.” 

The RCGP chair concluded by arguing that whichever political party, or parties, that come to power must commit to delivering the GP Forward View for England in full, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

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