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Concern as new survey shows many EEA trained doctors considering leaving UK

Doctors leaders have warned of the imminent threat to NHS staffing posed by the ongoing uncertainty over the status of EEA trained doctors after Brexit, after a survey found that many doctors are preparing to leave the UK.

The UK-wide survey of 1,720 doctors who gained their primary medical qualification in another EEA country found that 45% were considering leaving the UK while 19% had already made plans to go.

In Scotland, 140 EEA-trained doctors responded to the survey with 34% considering leaving, while 14% had made plans to leave – a lower rate than the UK average, although caution is needed before drawing any conclusions based on the small sample size.

The findings come amid ongoing uncertainty over the future status of EEA nationals in the UK following Brexit. The BMA has warned for some time of the damage that this uncertainty is doing to the NHS across the UK and has repeatedly called for the future status of EEA nationals to be agreed as a matter of urgency.

Commenting, Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said:

“We have warned for some time that the ongoing uncertainty over the future status of EEA nationals is deeply and needlessly damaging. 

“These are our friends and our colleagues and too many of them continue to face uncertainty over what their future will be.

“The NHS in Scotland simply cannot afford to lose the valued contributions that so many doctors from elsewhere in Europe make to it. 

“The Scottish Government has been clear that it wants to protect the rights of European NHS staff and this is welcome and appreciated by many, but it is ultimately the Westminster Government that must act before further damage is done.”

Case study:

Dr Andreas Herfurt 
Andreas is a German doctor living in the north coast of Scotland. He came to the UK in 1994 because in Germany there was a surplus of doctors and few jobs. He is a rural GP in a village of only 300 people called Bettyhill, on the north coast of Scotland. He is married and lives with his wife, a UK national. 

Andreas said that he is considering leaving the UK. He said he has worked for the NHS for over 23 years and thinks that the government are “making things difficult for people like me”. Andreas doesn’t want to leave – he considers the UK to be home. However, he said that he gets the feeling that the government “don’t care about people like me”. 

He says that applying for residency looks to be fraught with hurdles and hoops.  He thinks that if the government really cared about people who have made their life and work here they would be more direct with them about what will happen.

Andreas has said that he has experienced no negative attitudes from anyone whatsoever, from his patients, staff or neighbours. He said he has only experienced shock from everyone, who consider him to be “one of us”.

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