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Brexit puts 3.5 million patients at risk of losing their GP, says RCGP

by Alice Harrold
22 May 2017

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Over 2,000 GPs providing care for more than 3 million patients could be lost to the NHS if their status is not protected during Brexit negotiations, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned.

The warning is based on a new analysis released today (22 May), which shows that 3,456,481 patients could be left without a family doctor if the 2,137 GPs from the European Union are forced to leave the UK.

The RCGP based their estimated figure of EU GPs on the number of GPs who hold their primary medical qualification from an institution in the European Economic Area, including Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, which are not EU members.

EU GPs constitute 5% of the workforce in England. The GP Forward View pledged 5,000 more full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs by 2020, however, the latest workforce figures reveal 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.

The RCGP is calling on the next Government to guarentee the status of all EU healthcare professionals working in the NHS.

They are also urging that GPs be added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List, which would make it easier for GPs from overseas to live and work in the UK.

This is one of Six Steps for Safer General Practice – the RCGP’s manifesto for the next Government, which 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.

A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the RCGP revealed:

  • 59% think that GPs from the EU working in UK general practice should have their position guaranteed from the outset of Brexit negotiations
  • 56% people favour allowing the continued immigration of people who come to the country to work as GPs

YouGov survyed 1,903 people online between 15 and 16 May and weighted the results to be representative of all UK adults.

‘Desperate’ need for GPs

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said: ‘We desperately need thousands more GPs right across the UK’.

England has been promised 5,000 more GPs by 2020 but the RCGP’s analysis indicates that they now risk losing over 2,000 GPs if their position is not secured as part of Brexit negotiations. ‘That is just not safe or acceptable,’ she said.

‘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 are also urging whichever political party, or parties, that come to power to deliver the GP Forward View for England in full, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020,’ Ms Stokes-Lampard said.