Brexit could hit GP workforce, academics suggest

The NHS workforce could be hit hard if the UK votes to quit the EU next month because the employment of 9,000 doctors from European countries who currently work in the health service - including 1,600 GPs - would be thrown into doubt, academics have warned.

In an editorial that looked at the impact Brexit could have on the NHS, a group of academics including top GPs found that leaving the EU could cause problems the existing workforce and would affect recruitment from Europe in future.

The group of 17 academics led by Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP and head of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London, warned: 'A vote to leave the EU would make future recruitment more difficult as the UK would have to negotiate with each EU country separately to ensure that doctors and other health professionals recruited to work in the UK are trained to the same standards expected from UK-trained staff.'

Previous official data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre found that approximately 1,600 GPs (4.5% of the total workforce) came from within the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA is similar to the EU, but also includes Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

GP workforce

According to the report, the most important impact of a vote in favour of leaving the EU would arise from its economic effects. They said the economic shockwaves caused by an exit from the EU would mean a choice between increasing taxes or substantial spending cuts.

The researchers warned that lower spending in health and social care would stretch hospitals and primary care to their limits, with the biggest public health impact falling on 'children, the elderly and the poor'.

The report published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine also notes that leaving the EU would mean leaving the European Health Insurance Card mechanism, and necessitate new mechanisms for charging EU patients for their treatment. GPs voted at the most recent LMC conference to approve charging all overseas patients for treatment, and that these payments should be retained by the practice.

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