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NHS ‘will not be able to cope’ without EU doctors as fifth plan to leave

Almost a fifth of EU doctors have made plans to leave the UK following the Brexit referendum, a survey by the BMA has found.

Currently EU workers make up around 7.7% of UK doctors, and many more work in public health and academic medicine.

But almost half of those surveyed said that they were considering leaving the UK following the referendum, and 29% said that they were unsure about whether their future remained in the UK.

When asked the reason that they were considering leaving the UK, the top three reasons cited were Brexit, negative attitudes towards EU workers and uncertainty over future immigration rules.

BMA treasurer Dr. Andrew Dearden called this revelation “a real concern,” and argued that the NHS “would not be able to cope” without its EU doctors.

“We need clarity on what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK, and an end to the uncertainty and insecurity that could see many voting with their feet,” he added.

“It’s also vital that any future immigration system is flexible enough to ensure the NHS can recruit and retain doctors and other NHS workers in sufficient numbers.”

Responding to the BMA’s findings, Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “There is increasing evidence that Brexit is having an adverse impact on staff recruitment and retention in the NHS.

“The government must deliver certainty for EU staff. It should reassure them that their commitment to the NHS is greatly valued and will continue to be welcome. 

It should also provide assurance on immigration policy so trusts can continue to recruit overseas while we strengthen our workforce here.”

NHS Providers published its own report last week, ‘There for us: a better future for the NHS,’ which stated that difficulties in international recruitment are threatening patient care.

Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, who wrote about the impact of Brexit in the latest edition of NHE, warned today that the BMA’s survey of EEA doctors revealed “deeply concerning” statistics.

“International doctors play a vital role in the delivery of healthcare in the UK and are valued members of the workforce,” she continued.

“Whilst we welcome the positive statements which have been made, we feel that government should provide guarantees that the UK is able to recruit and retain international doctors in the future.”

NHS Employers’ Cavendish Coalition co-convenor, Danny Mortimer, also called the BMA’s latest figures “alarming,” particularly when a shortage of staff and the looming winter mean that the NHS is already under enormous pressure.

He added: “We need to make sure the UK remains an attractive prospect for the brightest and best from the EEA, as we know we won't be able to fill gaps with domestic recruitment in the short to medium term.

"We must be able to continue recruiting from abroad, and firm assurances must be provided on guarantees for EU citizens already living and working in the UK.”

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