Since the UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, there have been many discussions in the media about how Brexit will affect foreign NHS workers. We are exploring how doctors will be affected by the coming changes.

The doctors’ workforce now

It is estimated about 10% doctors working in the NHS in England are nationals of other EU countries. In fact, The British Medical Association’s research found that four in 10 EU doctors were considering leaving, with a further 25% unsure about what to do since the referendum.

The staff losses will increase the recruitment issues of the NHS, which is struggling to recruit and retain doctors. A recent report suggests the NHS is short of at least 5,000 family doctors.

The future

“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,” said a spokeswoman for the British Medical Association, representing over 170,000 doctors in the UK. “Theresa May needs to end the uncertainty and grant doctors working in the NHS permanent residence, rather than using them as political pawns in negotiations.”

GP leaders and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine say the UK urgently needs greater numbers of general practitioners and emergency doctors – just a few of the specialities struggling with recruitment and retention.

Dr Mark Porter, of the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, argues we have generally staffed a health service we can afford – rather than look at what the population needs.

“The population’s needs are genuinely not quite as predictable as one might imagine. We know the trajectory illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are taking over the next five years. But what about the next 25 years? The answer could give us completely different trajectories in the future.”

Can Brexit be blamed solely?

Although no data has been presented by the GMC, the English Language requirements Doctors need to achieve may also be having an impact on the number of Doctors moving to the UK. This remains to be seen. However one thing we can be sure of, it that Brexit is causing a great deal of uncertainty.

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