A BMA survey of doctors from European Economic Area (EEA) countries who work in the UK found that 45% are considering leaving the UK after the EU referendum result, and nearly one in five have made concrete plans to leave.
The findings suggest that of the 12,000 doctors from EEA countries currently working in the NHS across the UK, around 5,400 could be ready to leave.
Official NHS data for England show that 1,280 of the current GP workforce - 4.4% of the total - qualified in EEA countries. The BMA findings suggest that almost 600 of these are considering leaving the country and that around 230 could have made plans to leave. The true figure could be higher because this workforce statistic does not include locum doctors.
BMA treasurer and former GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden said: 'That so many EU doctors are actively planning to leave the UK is a cause for real concern. Many have dedicated years of service to the NHS and medical research in the UK, and without them our health service would not be able to cope.
'We need clarity on what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK, and an end to the uncertainty and insecurity that could see many voting with their feet.
'It’s also vital that any future immigration system is flexible enough to ensure the NHS can recruit and retain doctors and other NHS workers in sufficient numbers. Our NHS and patient care are all the richer for having a diverse workforce - it’s crucial we don’t lose valuable experience and expertise because of Brexit.'
A total of 1,720 EEA doctors working in the NHS took part in the BMA poll.
Following the EU referendum, the BMA has been calling on the government to guarantee permanent residence for EU doctors and medical researchers currently in the UK, and for flexible immigration rules to support healthcare and research.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference earlier this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was confident that EU staff working in the NHS and social care would be able to remain in the UK.