EU doctors make up a significant portion of the NHS workforce, with many dedicating years of their lives to the health service and providing the high quality care that patients depend on.
In 2017 and 2018, the BMA surveyed EU doctors working in the UK to find out what impact Brexit was having on them. Here we highlight the results of those surveys.
Remember, if you have been personally affected by events relating to Brexit, you can get emotional support from our wellbeing support services.
EU survey 2018
In 2018, the BMA surveyed over 1,500 EU doctors working in the UK. We found that less than a quarter had faith in the prime minister's commitment to protect their rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with over a third making plans to move abroad following Brexit.
EU doctors make up a significant portion of the NHS workforce, with many dedicating years of their lives to the health service and providing high quality care that patients depend on.
That a third of EU doctors are considering leaving the UK - due, in the main, to Brexit - presents a real risk to the NHS workforce and its ability to provide safe care for patients.
We found that:
- 78% of EU doctors working in the UK were not reassured by the prime minister’s commitment to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit
- 37% of EU doctors were not aware of the Government’s 'settled status' scheme for EU nationals
- the top four reasons to leave the UK were all Brexit related - the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the negative attitude towards EU workers in the UK, uncertainty over personal immigration status in the future, and the way the UK government treats EU workers
- more than 35 per cent of EU doctors were considering moving abroad. When asked to which country, 18 per cent of those who responded were thinking about leaving Europe entirely
- 66 per cent of EU doctors were committed to working in the UK.
The BMA is calling for the government to formally guarantee the rights of EU citizens should the UK leave without an agreement.
While the former prime minister, Theresa May, said she would honour commitments to EU citizens and their families, the BMA is urging the government to publish a specific statement on their rights in the event of a no-deal.
EU staff working in the NHS and in higher education, who wish to stay after Brexit, can apply for 'settled status'. However, our survey revealed that almost 40 per cent of EU doctors were not aware of this scheme at all.
While the settlement scheme grants settled status to those who have lived in Britain for five years (and pre-settled status for those who have lived here for less), the BMA says the government must move quickly to guarantee that it will be honoured if there is no Brexit deal agreed.
We are urging all healthcare workers to apply for settled status as early as possible.
EU survey 2017
A 2017 BMA survey of EU doctors working in the UK found that nearly half were considering leaving following the EU referendum result, with almost one in five having solid plans to relocate elsewhere.
Around 12,000 doctors who work in the NHS in England – 7.7% of the UK medical workforce - qualified in the EU, with many more working in public health and academic medicine. Recruiting from Europe has been vital in dealing with staff shortages in UK health services, ensuring the NHS can provide high-quality, reliable and safe patient care.
We found that:
- almost half (45%) were considering leaving the UK following the referendum vote, with another 29% saying they were unsure
- of those considering leaving, more than a third (39%) had made plans, meaning that almost one in five EU doctors (18%) had made plans to leave the UK
- the top three reasons cited for considering leaving were the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a negative attitude towards EU workers in the UK, and continuing uncertainty over future immigration rules
- Germany, Spain and Australia were the top three countries that doctors were considering moving to.
Intention to leave
While 57% of EU doctors said they were committed to working in the UK, when we asked: "are you considering leaving the UK and moving to another country?" 44.71% of respondents said they were.
Expectations of Brexit negotiations
The survey found only 9.52% of EU doctors were confident of a positive outcome in the negotiations taking place on EU and UK citizens' rights, while 31.14% responded ‘not sure’ and 59.34% were not confident with the outcome. In addition, 76.89% of respondents said that a negative outcome to these negotiations would make them more likely to consider leaving the UK.