GP leaders are warning that nearly 3.5 million patients are at risk of losing their family doctor, if the status of doctors from the European Union is not protected during Brexit negotiations.
New analysis from the Royal College of General Practitioners estimates that 2,137 GPs across the UK are from the EU, which it says equates to around 5 percent of the workforce in England. In Northern Ireland, EU nationals represent 11 percent of the GP workforce, and 4 percent in Scotland and Wales.
Protecting their right to remain in the UK is particularly critical given that the latest workforce figures show the number of GPs in full time employment has taken a downward turn, at a time when NHS England has pledged 5,000 more GPs by 2020, the College stressed.
As such, it is calling on the next government to safeguard the existing GP workforce during Brexit negotiations by guaranteeing the status of all EU healthcare professionals working in the NHS.
The College also wants GPs added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List, as this would make it easier for family doctors from overseas to live and work in the UK.
“EU workers in general practice - and the NHS as a whole - play a vital role in ensuring that care is delivered free at the point of need for anyone who needs it. Losing this skill and experience would be disastrous for the sustainability of our health service, and our ability to deliver the care our patients need,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP.
“Ensuring that the status of EU GPs working in the NHS is secure as part of Brexit negotiations is one of the College’s Six Steps for Safer General Practice; our manifesto for the next government. We are also urging whichever political party, or parties, that come to power to deliver the GP Forward View for England in full, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020.”