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Brexit: Exodus of EU doctors from the NHS, according to BMA survey

BMA survey of 1,720 doctors from European Economic Area countries found main reasons for considering leaving the UK included negative attitudes towards EU staff and uncertainty over immigration rules 

British Medical Association survey of 1,720 doctors from European Economic Area (EEA) countries found main reasons for leaving the UK after Brexit include negative attitudes towards EU staff and uncertainty over immigration rules 

  • 45% of doctors surveyed said they were considering leaving the UK
  • 77% said a negative outcome to negotiations on EU citizens’ rights will make them more likely to leave
  • 12,000 EEA nationals make up around 8% of the NHS medical workforce

Picture: iStock

Almost half of NHS doctors from continental Europe are considering quitting the UK because of Brexit, and around one in five has already made solid plans to do so, according to a new survey.

The survey of 1,720 doctors from European Economic Area (EEA) countries, conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), found that their main reasons for considering leaving were:

  • Britain’s decision to quit the European Union (EU).
  • Negative attitudes towards EU staff in the UK.
  • Uncertainty over future immigration rules.

‘Vital that future immigation system is flexible for recruitment’

The BMA said that 12,000 EEA nationals make up 7.7% of the NHS medical workforce and are vital to ensuring that the health service can provide high-quality, reliable and safe patient care.

The organisation urged the government to guarantee permanent residence rights for EU doctors and medical researchers, as well as a flexible future immigration system which supports health and medical research in the UK.

BMA treasurer Andrew Dearden said: ‘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.

‘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. Our NHS and patient care are all the richer for having a diverse workforce – it's crucial we don't lose valuable experience and expertise because of Brexit.'

Negative outcome to Brexit negotiations

Of the EEA doctors questioned for the survey, 45% said they were considering leaving the UK, with a further 29% saying they were not sure whether they would leave or not. Some 77% said a negative outcome to negotiations on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit would make them more likely to consider leaving.

Some 18% of those questioned said they had already made plans to leave the UK, with Germany, Spain and Australia the most popular destinations.

But a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘This survey does not stand-up to scrutiny. In fact, there are actually more EU doctors working in the NHS since the EU referendum, more EU graduates joining the UK medical register and 3,193 more EU nationals working in the NHS overall.’


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