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BMA Scotland: Imperative that supply of European doctors not cut off

A “deeply concerning” lack of progress in finding solutions that will allow European doctors to come to work in Scotland post Brexit has today (WED, MAY 23rd) been highlighted by the Chair of BMA Scotland.

Dr Peter Bennie was speaking as he prepared to visit Brussels to discuss the issue with MEPs, fellow European doctors and the Scottish Government.

Ahead of the visit, which will include attending a wide ranging discussion event on the future of the European Medical Workforce at the European Parliament, Dr Bennie said:

“It is deeply concerning that we have seen virtually no progress on a solution that will allow medical professionals to come to Scotland to work after Brexit. While we have seen some reassurance for doctors already in Scotland and those who arrive during the transition period, there is absolutely no clarity on what immigration arrangements may be in place once we have left the European Union, and the implications that could have for doctors.

 “The benefits of allowing doctors to practice freely across the EU are manifold. Not least among them is the substantial contribution European doctors make to delivering care in our NHS. At a time when our workforce is already stretched to its limits, it is unthinkable that we could simply stand by and lose this important supply line of doctors for our hospitals and communities.

 “But it is not just a numbers game. The free exchange of ideas and experiences that doctors pick up from working in different health systems, and that European doctors bring to Scotland, benefits them as professionals, their colleagues and the patients they care for. That is why I am joining fellow doctors in Brussels today to highlight this issue.

 “As much as we need progress on immigration, it is equally important that we press the case for politicians and negotiators to find a solution that continues the mutual recognition of medical qualifications across Europe. It is imperative they do so as a priority, to deliver the long term clarity required beyond the transition period. We have seen welcome commitments from the Scottish Government that they agree and support this aim and I am pleased to have their support in these discussions. The UK Government must follow suit, and I hope that at an EU level, agreement on pragmatic solutions can be reached.

 “This situation must be particularly worrying for students from EEA countries who are either studying in Scotland at the moment, or considering coming to Scotland, and have no idea whether their qualification will be valid in Europe after the transition period is complete. Since 2010, more than 200 students from the EU have graduated from Scottish medical schools. We want these future doctors to stay in Scotland out of choice – because this is a great place to live and work – yet we risk losing them before they even qualify due to this ongoing uncertainty.”

Dr Thomas Robertson, is a German doctor who has worked as a consultant anaesthetist in Dundee since 2016, and a member of the BMA’s Local Negotiating Committee. Speaking of his concerns at the current situation, Dr Robertson said:

 “After the referendum we were initially in denial, trusted in British pragmatism and thought it was all going to be all right somehow. 

 “But the main problem with Brexit is that the support that has been expressed by employers, the BMA and the Scottish government is very welcome, but in the end it is in Westminster where the crucial decisions are made. As it stands, the apparent inability of the British government to develop a feasible proposal for Brexit and the future of the medical profession is worrying. 

“Another issue that is often forgotten is the doubt over continued recognition of British qualifications in the EU. Not being allowed to stay in the UK and not being allowed to work as a professional in the EU is a possible and potentially disastrous scenario for many who trained in the NHS. 

“I think European doctors in Scotland and the UK are aware that we are in a privileged position compared to most migrants and - even in a worst case scenario - we are very likely to be able to manage. For many the question is rather, how much uncertainty and hardship can we take until we decide we do not want to stay in the UK anymore? With EU passports, language skills and EU qualifications, the answer is probably not as much as the UK Government thinks. Having moved to another country before, we know how much stress it is to start from scratch in another country. However, this option exists and there is a limited amount of hardship people will accept before making such a move to leave the UK.”


 Dr Bennie will attend the following BMA event in the European Parliament, and meet with MEPs and the Scottish Government during his visit to Brussels.

Keeping Europe Healthy: Brexit and the European Medical Profession
Hosted by Wajid Khan MEP

Event programme:

- Brexit and the European medical profession. Dr Jacques de Haller, President of the CPME
- The pan-European medical workforce. Dr Kitty Mohan, President of the EJD
- The Irish Question: the medical profession and healthcare collaboration in a post-Brexit Ireland.
- Prof Trevor Duffy, Chair IMO (Irish Medical Organisation) International Affairs Committee
- Medical Research in a post-Brexit Europe. Miguel Reis Ferreira, Clinical Research Fellow,
- Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Trust
- Q&A session

For further information please contact:

BMA Scotland, 14 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1LL
Telephone: 0131 247 3050 | 0131 247 3052 | 0131 247 3018 
For out-of-hours press enquiries:
07768 005 850 
Email: [email protected] 
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