BMA finds four in ten might quit UK post-Brexit
At October’s Tory conference, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wanted a ‘self-sufficient’ NHS packed with ‘home-grown doctors’, to save Britain ‘importing doctors from poorer countries’.
Prime Minister Theresa May followed this up by suggesting doctors and nurses from abroad could be kicked out once they are replaced by British doctors, telling the BBC:
“there will be staff here from overseas in that interim period until the further number of British doctors are able to be trained and come on board.”
Well, the Tories might get their wish. A British Medical Association (BMA) survey out today finds 42 per cent of doctors from the European Union are thinking of quitting the UK following the EU referendum, and an additional 23 per cent unsure they will stay.
If you can bear the shame, have a read of what Dr Birgit Woolley, a German-born GP in West Sussex, told the BMA:
“Since the result of the EU referendum I feel increasingly uncertain about my future here, and am considering returning to Germany.
It is unsettling that in a country that I have contributed to for 20 years and consider home, I am now seen as a foreigner and have to prove that I deserve to live and work here.
I feel supported by my patients, with even those that voted leave telling me, ‘You can stay because you’re a doctor. We like you. We didn’t mean you.’
But the reality is that the government does not appreciate what EU nationals like me have contributed to the UK and only sees us as bargaining chips.”
Since nearly 60,000 staffers at the NHS, including more than 10,000 doctors, moved here from the European Union, a mass exodus would devastate an already buckling health service.
As Dr Mark Porter, chairman of council at the BMA, said:
“While thousands of overseas and EU doctors work across the UK to provide the best possible care for patients, many from the EU are left feeling unwelcome and uncertain about whether they and their families will have the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit.
Many have dedicated years of service to healthcare in the UK, so it’s extremely concerning that so many are considering leaving.
At a time when the NHS is already at breaking point and facing crippling staff shortages, this would be a disaster and threaten the delivery of high-quality patient care.”
Yet the government seems willing to gamble the NHS for the sake of a crackdown on highly skilled immigration. Better that than admit Britain’s problems are ‘home-grown’.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.