Almost half of NHS doctors from Europe are considering quitting the UK because of Brexit, according to a new survey.
The survey of 1,720 doctors from European Economic Area countries, conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), found that their main reasons for considering leaving were Britain’s decision to quit the EU; negative attitudes towards EU workers in the UK; and uncertainty over future immigration rules.
The BMA said that 12,000 EEA nationals make up 7.7% of the NHS doctor 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: ‘That so many EU doctors are actively planning to leave the UK is a cause for real concern. Many have dedicated years of service to the NHS and medical research in the UK, and without them our health service would not be able to cope.
‘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.’
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.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described the survey’s findings as ‘extremely worrying’.
‘Theresa May must urgently safeguard the future of EU workers and stop treating them as bargaining chips in her reckless Brexit negotiations,’ Ashworth said. ‘Failure to do so seriously risks increasing staff shortages and exacerbating the already dire crisis in our health and care system.’