Clarity needed for European doctors post-Brexit, GMC warns

The General Medical Council (GMC) has warned that doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA) are growing increasingly nervous about the post-Brexit landscape.

The doctors’ regulator, which manages the medical register, has said that this important group of doctors needs swift confirmation on how they will be able to join the UK medical register.

A report on doctors from the EEA, published by the GMC today, warns that while the UK is still seen as an attractive place to work - the number of EEA doctors remaining on and joining the medical register has stayed fairly constant since the referendum - this could change rapidly depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

"As the UK medical regulator we are doing all that we can to prepare for the various scenarios that we may face in March 2019, while we await the outcome of the negotiations and confirmation from Government on how doctors with qualifications from the EEA will be able to join the UK medical register."

Charlie Massey

Chief Executive

There are currently almost 22,000 EEA doctors on the UK medical register, and around 2,000 join the register for the first time every year. The top five nationalities on the medical register are Republic of Ireland, Greece, Romania, Italy and Germany. 

The specialties of ophthalmology and surgery are particularly reliant on doctors with EEA qualification, who make up 24% and 18% of the workforce respectively.

The contribution of EEA doctors to the NHS is also particularly significant in remote and rural areas in all four UK countries. 

The status of doctors already registered with the UK is guaranteed. But it is unclear whether current GMC registration arrangements for EEA doctors, which are based on the principle of mutual recognition of doctors’ qualifications and enables the GMC to grant registration very quickly, will continue after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

The GMC’s report says: ‘Anecdotal evidence from our own frontline engagement, and insight from other organisations such as the British Medical Association and regulators from other European countries, suggests that EEA doctors are growing increasingly nervous about the post-Brexit landscape.’
Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘As the UK medical regulator we are doing all that we can to prepare for the various scenarios that we may face in March 2019, while we await the outcome of the negotiations and confirmation from Government on how doctors with qualifications from the EEA will be able to join the UK medical register.

‘What is clear is that we continue to value this important cohort of EEA qualified doctors and must work to ensure that the current uncertainty does not deter them from coming to the UK and contributing to our NHS.’

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