Article 50 has now been triggered and with negotiations soon to begin many EU workers in the NHS are contemplating what, if any, future awaits them in the UK. Theresa May has refused to confirm the rights of EU nationals to stay in the UK after Brexit, leaving many feeling dispensable and disposable if May’s ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario comes to fruition.
Current EU figures:• 10% of NHS doctors(around 10,000 total), and more than 20,000 NHS nurses, are trained in the EU.12. • An estimated 5000 Spanish doctors have emigrated to the UK in the last 5 years. 3 • An estimated 6000 Spanish nurses currently working in the NHS. 4 • UK is the current preferred destination by Spanish healthcare workers. 3
The NHS relies heavily on overseas doctors and nurses at a time when the NHS is struggling to cope with mounting pressures and significant staff shortages.
Impact to date:• 4 in 10 European doctors may leave UK after Brexit vote, BMA survey finds.5 • GMC survey suggests up to 60% of EU doctors plan to leave UK post Brexit. 6 • Since the referendum, the number of European Nursing professionals applying to work in the country has fallen by 90%. 7 • Almost double the number of nurses are choosing to stop working UK compared to figures published before the referendum. 7
As part of their survey, the GMC list the demoralisation of doctors together with the uncertainty about their residence status as the two common themes recorded in their survey feedback. 8
It is no wonder EU doctors are feeling unwanted, last October the Conservative party laid out their plans for a ´self-sufficient” NHS, suggesting foreign doctors will only be working in the NHS for an interim period until more UK trained physicians are trained and available. 9 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to train 1,500 more doctors to make the NHS self-sufficient by 2025, suggesting foreign doctors will not be welcome after that time. 10
The final impact of Brexit on Spanish doctors and nurses will likely not be known until the UK complete Brexit in March 2019 as predicted. However, the BMA and GMC surveys suggest most doctors and nurses do not plan to wait and put their fate in EU negotiations.
Where will Spanish doctors go? Although unemployment amongst GPs in Spain is relatively low at the moment (1.6%), only 8% of the total contracts signed were long term. This year, for the first time Ireland became the third preferred location for Spanish doctors moving abroad, according to the OMC 11Language, location and cultural similarities make Ireland an attractive alternative for Spanish doctors compared to the UK.