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Brexit-voting East of England most reliant on overseas doctors

Article By: Sue Learner

People in the East of England mostly voted to leave the EU in the referendum last year, yet new figures have shown it is these areas which are most dependent on overseas doctors.

A report by the General Medical Council (GMC) reveals that the dependence on doctors from outside the UK ranges from 18 per cent in the south-west to 43 per cent in the east of England. In the West Midlands, it is as high as 41 per cent and in the East Midland it is 38 per cent.

However while dependence on overseas doctors is growing, the number of doctors from outside the UK is falling, according to 'The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2017 report'

The number of doctors from Oceania which includes Australia and New Zealand has seen a 37 per cent drop. There has been a 24 per cent drop in doctors from North America and a 20 per cent drop in doctors from North-western Europe, according to the GMC.

There are fears that the drop in doctors from Europe could be due to anxiety over their status in the UK since the EU referendum.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, warned that the UK is at “crunch point” with an increasing number of patients and the likelihood of not enough doctors to treat them.

He said: “Each country needs to think carefully about how many doctors are needed, what expertise we need them to have so they can work as flexibly as possible, and where they should be located given the changes and movement in population expected.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) revealed in a recent survey that almost half of doctors from EEA (European Economic Area) are considering leaving following the EU referendum result, with almost one in five having already made solid plans to relocate elsewhere.

There are approximately 12,000 EEA doctors working in the NHS in England – 7.7 per cent of the UK medical workforce – with many more working in public health and academic medicine.

The top three reasons given for considering leaving were the UK’s decision to leave the EU, a current negative attitude toward EU workers in the UK and continuing uncertainty over future immigration rules.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the BMA (British Medical Association) said: “Today’s report reflects our own concerns - notably that the number of doctors has failed to keep up with demand, leaving the health service underprepared to meet current demands and manage a growing and ageing population suffering from increasingly complex conditions.

“As the research notes, the UK is reliant on doctors from abroad, and Brexit could compound difficulties recruiting and retaining these staff. Despite pledges from the Government to protect European doctors already working in Britain, the tangible effect of the referendum result on the lives of EU nationals is beginning to become clear.”

The UK gets its largest supply of international doctors from South Asia but this has fallen by seven per cent, with suggestions in the report that this could be due to the recent growth of the Indian economy making emigration to the UK less attractive.

The GMC called for a healthy supply of good doctors as well as a reduction in the pressure and burden on doctors wherever possible. It also wants to see an improvement in the culture of the workplace, making employment and training more supportive and flexible.

GMC’s Charlie Massey added: "The underlying challenge for all in healthcare is how we retain the good doctors we have right now. Everything we hear from the profession tells us that we need to value them more; nurture cultures that are safe and supportive, and do what we can to help staff achieve the right balance between their professional and personal lives through more flexible working arrangements."

To read the report click here


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