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NHS workforce must be Brexit ‘top priority’

Brexit negotiations must prioritise the NHS workforce, the RCGP has said in response to a striking BMA survey that revealed widespread unrest amongst doctors from the EU working in the UK.

Over 2,000 GPs from the EU are planning to leave the UK following the Brexit vote, which could compromise the care of over three million patients.

Already the NHS is struggling to meet its goal of 5,000 more GPs in England by 2020, half of which are expected to come from overseas.

But with uncertainty about future immigration rules post-Brexit, the RCGP has been calling for GPs to be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “We already have a severe shortage of GPs in the UK and we simply cannot afford to lose these doctors – in fact, the college is further calling for GPs to be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list, to make it easier for appropriately trained doctors from overseas to enter our profession.

“The NHS, particularly our health service’s workforce, must be one of the national top priorities during Brexit negotiations.”

In the meantime, she added, the country needs the GP Forward View to be “implemented in full as a matter of urgency,” including the £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more doctors by the end of the decade. Equivalent pledges are also needed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There has been widespread concern over the potential impact of Brexit in the health service once the country leaves the EU, with the Nuffield Trust recently warning that a ‘no deal Brexit’ could be seriously damaging to the NHS.

And at the NHS Providers annual conference last week, NHS England boss Simon Stevens called on the government to deliver the NHS funding promise made by the Leave camp during the EU Referendum. While he did not specifically call for the £350m advertised in the so-called ‘Brexit bus,’ he did demand that Whitehall ensures promises made during the campaign are kept.

Top image: sturti

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