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Oral evidence to Health Committee Brexit inquiry

GMC Statement

28 Feb 2017

Charlie Massey gave oral evidence to the Health Select Committee today as part of the Committee’s ongoing inquiry on the implications of Brexit for health and social care.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive and Registrar of the General Medical Council, said:

‘EEA doctors make a huge and vital contribution to health services across the UK. We want to continue attracting overseas doctors in future, and ensure we do not create any unnecessary barriers that would stop them coming here.

‘We are clear that the registration of EEA doctors currently on our register will be unaffected by the UK’s departure from the EU. However we recently surveyed over 2,000 EEA doctors practising in the UK and they have told us that their future status here is a real concern. It’s deeply worrying that some are considering leaving the UK in the next few years. If they leave this would have a serious impact on patient care and would place the rest of the UK medical profession under even greater pressure.

‘Brexit strengthens the case for reforming professional regulation, as it provides an opportunity to make progress in two distinct areas: improving the checks we can put in place to ensure all doctors practising in the UK meet the same standards – whether they qualified in the UK, Europe or elsewhere – and improving training for doctors by creating greater flexibility in postgraduate training.

‘More widely, we need fundamental reform to our legislation to allow much more flexibility than our outdated legislation provides if we are going to be able to respond to the changing environment and workforce pressures in the most effective way.’

Notes to editors

In February we launched an in-house survey through our email bulletin, GMC news for doctors, to help us understand the impact of Brexit on the UK medical profession. The survey was open for two weeks and went out to all registered doctors - those who took part were self-selecting.

Our survey captured responses from 2,115 doctors who identified themselves as EEA nationals holding registration with a licence to practise who are currently practising in the UK (either wholly or partly).

1,280 out of 2,106 doctors (60%) said they were considering leaving the UK – and therefore UK practice – at some point in the future.

Of those 1,280 doctors, 91% (n=1,171) said the UK’s decision to leave the EU was a factor in their considerations.

586 out of 1,280 doctors (45%) said they were considering leaving the UK in the next two years; while 24.2% (n=312) said they were considering leaving in the next 3-5 years. 24.9% (n=320) of respondents answering this question said they hadn’t considered when they might leave.

Over 1,000 doctors left comments explaining how they felt about Brexit and the impact on their practice. A quick analysis of those comments identifies two key themes:

  • Uncertainty about future residence status
  • The emotional impact of Brexit: many doctors said they felt unwanted and demoralised

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors - their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

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