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NHS set to lose over 2,000 European GPs if status isn’t protected during Brexit

GP shortage will deepen and leave 3 million patients doctorless, warns RCGP

Caroline White

Monday, 22 May 2017

The NHS is set to lose more than 2,000 GPs providing care for more than 3 million patients if their status is not protected during Brexit negotiations, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned.

The warning follows a new analysis carried out by the College showing that 3,456,481 patients could be left without a family doctor if the 2,137 GPs across the UK, that the RCGP estimates are from the European Union, are forced to leave.

This figure represents 5% of the GP workforce in England at a time when the government has pledged 5,000 more full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs by 2020, and when the latest workforce figures showed a drop of 445 FTE GPs in the three months from September to December 2016.
 
In Northern Ireland, EU nationals represent 11% of the GP workforce, and 4% in Scotland and Wales.
  
A nationally representative online poll of nearly 2,000 adults, conducted last week by YouGov for the College, found that 59% of respondents think that GPs from the EU working in UK general practice should have their position guaranteed from the outset of Brexit negotiations.
 
The poll also showed that 56% of respondents favoured allowing the continued immigration of people who come to the country to work as GPs.
 
As well as demanding that the position of EU nationals working in the NHS is guaranteed, the RCGP is also urging the next government to add GPs to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List, which would make it easier for family doctors from overseas to live and work in the UK.
 
This is one of Six Steps for Safer General Practice – the College’s manifesto for the next government – that also calls for the GP Forward View to be delivered in full.
 
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, said: “We desperately need thousands more GPs right across the UK, and in England we have been promised 5,000 more by 2020 – but these figures indicate that we risk losing well over 2,000 family doctors from the NHS if their position is not secured as part of Brexit negotiations, and that is just not safe or acceptable.”
 
She insisted that EU workers in general practice – and the NHS as a whole – had a vital role in ensuring that care is delivered free at the point of need for anyone who needs it.

“Losing this skill and experience would be disastrous for the sustainability of our health service, and our ability to deliver the care our patients need. It is essential that EU workers in general practice and across the health service continue to feel welcome, valued, and that their future is secure,” she said.

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