In 2016, 197 doctors who graduated in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland joined the UK GP register. But this number fell to 181 a year after the vote and dropped again in 2018 to 164 - marking a 17% decrease in two years.
Meanwhile, the number of EEA GPs leaving UK practice increased by 13% between 2017 and 2018. Although figures showed a sharp decrease in the number of GPs who left the UK register straight after the vote, falling from 251 in 2016 to 162 in 2017, the number of GPs leaving UK practice rose again in 2018 to 183.
The proportion of the UK GP workforce trained in the EEA has decreased since the referendum, falling from 5.2% in 2016 to 5% three years later. In 2015, 5.5% of the UK GP workforce was EEA-trained, suggesting a sharp fall in the run-up to the referendum.
Meanwhile, GMC figures show that the total number of EEA GPs in the UK has fallen by 10% since 2012. Numbers of leavers from EEA countries peaked in 2015 at 306, dropping off nearly every year since then until a rise in 2018.
BMA GP committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told GPonline that UK general practice could not afford to lose more doctors.
‘General practice is in the grip of a workforce crisis,' he said, 'and while our experienced colleagues from the EU may still be arriving here to work in the NHS, it’s concerning that the number leaving is on the rise.
‘The key issue here is about retention, and we need to address the reasons why doctors are choosing to leave – regardless of where they trained. This means tackling crippling workload and mounting bureaucracy, and scrapping damaging pensions regulations, to ensure we hold on to the skills and expertise of valuable family doctors.
‘As we approach Brexit, which poses its own threat to our workforce, we cannot afford to lose any more talented medics.'
Figures confirming more EEA-trained GPs leaving and fewer GPs joining the UK medical register come shortly after the Conservatives pledged to boost the workforce by 6,000 GPs by 2024/25. The party has promised an 'NHS visa' system to help doctors and nurses come to the UK post-Brexit.
GP leaders warned recently that the government was missing out on thousands of potential GPs, with UK citizens who study medicine abroad finding it difficult to access jobs in the NHS when they return home.