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23 Feb 2017
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Brexit – UK faces Doctor Shortage

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According to a survey of overseas medics, around 12,000 doctors that were trained in Europe could leave the UK as they feel less welcome after the Brexit vote.

The survey, conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA) showed, that around two in five doctors who qualified in European Economic area countries would consider leaving following the EU referendum result.

These findings have triggered alarm about imminent “disaster” in medical staffing and fears that a mass exodus of EEA doctors could exacerbate already significant staff shortages in the NHS.

The findings of the BMA survey were based on 1,193 EEA doctors working in the UK. When they were asked whether they were thinking of leaving the UK following the Brexit vote, 500 (42%) said yes, 309 (26%) said no, 273 (23%) said they weren’t sure, and the remaining 106 did not answer.

In response to the survey findings, the council chair of the BMA, Dr Mark Porter said: “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.” Dr Porter went onto add: “At a time when the NHS is already at breaking point and facing crippling staff shortages, this would be a disaster and threaten the delivery of high-quality patient care. But this isn’t just about numbers. The quality of patient care is improved where doctors have diverse experiences and expertise.”

Other results of the survey show that European doctors feel less appreciated by the UK government since the referendum. Their average rating on that score has fallen from 7 out of ten before the referendum, to less than 4 out of 10 now.

Furthermore, EEA doctors feel a lot less committed to working in the UK since the Brexit vote. Their average score on that fell from 9 out of 10 pre-Brexit, to just 6 out of 10 now.

German-born GP, Dr Birgit Wooley who has been working in the UK for over 20 years said: “Since the result of the EU referendum I feel increasingly uncertain about my future here, and am considering returning to Germany. It is unsettling that in a country that I have contributed to for 20 years and consider home, I am now seen as a foreigner and have to prove that I deserve to live and work here.”

In response to the hard-hitting BMA findings, a Department of Health spokesman said: “As the government has repeatedly made clear, overseas workers form a crucial part of our NHS and we value their contribution immensely. We want to see the outstanding work of doctors and nurses who are already trained overseas continue, but at the same time we have been very clear that we want to give more domestic students the chance to be doctors, given the enduring popularity of this as a career.”