Over 2000 GPs providing care for more than three million patients could be lost to the NHS if their status is not protected during Brexit negotiations, warns the Royal College of General Practitioners.
New analysis from the College, released today, shows that 3,456,481 patients could be left without a family doctor if the 2,137 GPs across the UK, that the RCGP estimates are from the European Union, are forced to leave.
This constitutes five per cent of the workforce in England at a time when NHS England’s GP Forward View has pledged 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs by 2020 – but latest workforce figures actually showed a drop of 445 FTE GPs in the three months from September to December 2016.
In Northern Ireland, EU nationals represent 11% of the GP workforce, and 4% in Scotland and Wales.
Ahead of the general election next month, the RCGP is calling on the next government to safeguard the existing GP workforce during Brexit negotiations by guaranteeing the status of all EU healthcare professionals working in the NHS.
The worrying statistics come as polling for the College, conducted by YouGov, has found 59% of people surveyed think that GPs from the EU working in UK general practice should have their position guaranteed from the outset of Brexit negotiations.
The poll also found that 56% people favour allowing the continued immigration of people who come to the country to work as GPs.
As well as demanding that the position of EU nationals working in the NHS is safeguarded, the RCGP is also urging the next government to add GPs to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List, which would make it easier for family doctors from overseas to live and work in the UK.
This is one of Six Steps for Safer General Practice – the College’s manifesto for the next government, that also calls for the GP Forward View to be delivered in full, including £2.4bn extra per year and for 5,000 more GPs to be delivered by 2020.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “We desperately need thousands more GPs right across the UK, and in England we have been promised 5,000 more by 2020 – but these figures indicate that we risk losing well over 2,000 family doctors from the NHS if their position is not secured as part of Brexit negotiations, and that is just not safe or acceptable.
“EU workers in general practice – and the NHS as a whole – play a vital role in ensuring that care is delivered free at the point of need for anyone who needs it. Losing this skill and experience would be disastrous for the sustainability of our health service, and our ability to deliver the care our patients need. It is essential that EU workers in general practice and across the health service continue to feel welcome, valued, and that their future is secure.
“We have a severe shortage of GPs and other practice staff across the UK and we are very grateful for the work that doctors from overseas are currently doing to deliver excellent patient care – and support us to meet the demands of our ageing and growing population.”