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Politicians urged to protect EU GPs working in Scotland

RCGP in Scotland calls for ‘free movement of GPs’

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Doctors’ leaders in Scotland are calling on all political parties to protect European GPs.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, has called for all political parties to guarantee protection to GPs in Scotland who came to the country from the European Union.

Some 226 of Scotland’s GPs took their primary degree from a European Economic Area (EEA) country. While the EEA does not perfectly match the European Union, these figures are a strong indicator of their origin. 

“Their potential loss would cause grave concern for patient safety and is addressed in the launch of the RCGP Scotland manifesto,” the RCGP has stated. 

Speaking from his practice in Dingwall, Dr Mack said: “There is already a projected deficit of 828 whole-time equivalent GPs in Scotland, by 2021. Promoting core values, our manifesto for the coming general election, calls for governments to facilitate the delivery of sufficient numbers of GPs to overcome it.

“To learn that Scotland could face the loss of an additional 4% of its already stretched GP workforce is extremely worrying. It is one in 25 of Scotland’s GPs. It could negatively affect over 226,000 patients in Scotland. We are calling for government to safeguard the GP workforce during international negotiations by guaranteeing the status of healthcare professionals already working in Scotland and the UK.”

Last June’s publication of the 2015 Primary Care Workforce Survey showed that numbers of Whole Time Equivalent GPs had fallen by 90 since 2013 [around 2.4%, from 3,735 to 3,645].

Dr Mack added: “We have commented on the need to act immediately to halt that long-term pattern. We are now faced with a possible removal of a further 146 GPs who, as nationals of other EU member states, might be lost to the workforce if their status is not protected. Again, we must call for immediate action to prevent that clear harm to the health service.

“Repeated surveys have shown the considerable percentage of GPs in Scotland who plan to soon leave the service as a result of overwork and consistent underfunding. An enormous and urgent effort is required in Scotland to save general practice.”

Dr Mack urged both Westminster and Holyrood to ‘hurry to take action’ to ease the situation.

“The full £500 million promised to ‘GPs and health centres’ by the First Minister in October could be clearly outlined for the GP service, to show medical students a career with a bright future. Government must safeguard the GP workforce during international negotiations by guaranteeing the status of healthcare professionals already working in Scotland and the UK. It must be made as easy as possible for doctors from the EU and other countries to move to the UK and work here.”

He also called for general practice to be placed on the shortage occupation list. 

“Placing the profession there as a matter of urgency will ease visa applications for those who do want to come and serve our patients. The Scottish National GPs Performers List should be implemented as soon as possible and bureaucracy reduced to allow free movement of GPs throughout the four nations.

“These are realistic and achievable solutions which should be at the forefront of politicians’ minds, not only as they prepare their manifestos for the coming general election but also as they continue within their current positions of responsibility. Otherwise, the consequences for patients could be severe at best.”

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