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BMA briefing: Workforce implications of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU

The BMA has briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the funding of the NHS after the UK leaves the EU.

The NHS is facing unprecedented demand across almost all services, an ageing population coupled with increasingly complex patient illnesses and a drastic funding shortfall. This funding crisis facing the NHS risks being worsened by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

We are calling on the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond to uphold the ‘single most visible promise of the Leave campaign’ to give the NHS an extra £350 million a week in the forthcoming autumn statement.


Key points

  • There are approximately 135,000 EU nationals working in the NHS and adult social care system in England, which represents about five per cent of the NHS workforce and six per cent in adult social care.
  • In 2014, more than 10,000 doctors working in the NHS (6.6% of the UK medical workforce) received their primary medical qualification in another European Economic Area (EEA) country with additional staff working in public health and academic medicine - these individuals are vital to our NHS and the health and success of the country.
  • The EU’s policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications has enabled these EU nationals to work in health and social care organisations across the UK, helping NHS trusts and providers ensure gaps in the medical workforce are filled quickly by qualified workers with the appropriate level of training and education.
  • The ongoing political uncertainty surrounding the future of EU nationals living and working in the UK will inevitably lead to some doctors choosing to leave the UK and may deter others from choosing to pursue careers in the NHS. The government must offer these highly skilled professionals the confirmation and reassurance they need regarding their rights to live and work in the UK, including the offer of permanent residence in the UK.
  • Following the UK’s departure from the EU, it is essential that the immigration system remains flexible enough to recruit doctors from overseas, especially where the resident workforce is unable to produce enough suitable applicants to fill vacant roles.
  • The BMA is satisfied with the EWTD and the measures it has introduced, including a reduction in the maximum hours worked to an average of 48 per week, as transposed into the UK Working Time Regulations. We urge the government not to repeal these Regulations for new workers.
  • Doctors are increasingly being asked to work in an overstretched, under-resourced health service. The government must deliver upon the funding promise made by Brexit campaigners, to give the NHS an extra £350 million a week, so that patients get the health service they deserve.


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Implications for the health and social care workforce of the result of the referendum for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU

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Susan Bahl, Senior Public Affairs Officer

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