Brexit impact must be central to workforce planning

The General Medical Council has urged workforce planners to seriously consider the impact of Brexit while developing a new strategy for the NHS, to ensure systems can cope in the face of great change.

Responding to the Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future strategy consultation, led by Health Education England, the GMC said it supported the draft plan’s principles, but more work was needed to deal with future risks.

Figures show nine of our ten largest specialties are reliant on non-UK qualified doctors and, according to a survey conducted last year, many EEA doctors are thinking of leaving.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said the final version of the strategy should robustly address challenges to overseas recruitment.

He said: ‘Our 2017 The state of medical education and practice in the UK report showed how reliant the UK is on overseas doctors, and whilst growth in medical school places is welcome, it won’t fix the immediate workforce supply issues. We need to make sure that the UK is an attractive place for overseas doctors to work, both for new doctors and those already working here.

‘Our supply of doctors has grown but not nearly enough to meet surging demand. Though we can’t be certain about the impact of Brexit, we know a sudden reduction in the number of EEA doctors coming to the UK would have a considerable impact.’

The GMC noted concerns had been raised around the Tier 2 visa system and called on government to urgently address the issue.

‘It is frustrating that while one government department is working hard to recruit doctors into an overstretched health service, another is enforcing eligibility conditions which stifle those efforts’, Charlie Massey said.

To ensure the UK can attract and retain doctors in future, the GMC said steps must be taken to improve work environments, training, supervision and support for doctors in training. Last year’s National training surveys showed that over 70 per cent of medical trainers had a workload that was either ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’, while 40 per cent of doctors in training rated their workload as ’heavy’ or ‘very heavy’.

To help minimise the prospective impact of Brexit and address existing doctor shortages, the GMC has made clear that legislative change is pivotal to achieving the workforce flexibilities that the system needs, so that the GMC can:

  • make it easier for doctors to change specialties by recognising prior learning and transferability across areas
  • reform the way we register overseas doctors through the equivalence route
  • establish regulation for medical associate professions (MAPs)
  • achieve more effective joint working across the regulators

The draft Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future workforce strategy was published in December 2017 to plan for the years leading to 2027. Consultation submissions close today (Friday, 23 March 2018 at 5 pm).