Mutual arrangements that recognise European Economic Area qualifications in the UK will not be reciprocated by European medical regulators, the GMC has said.
The latest GMC’s board meeting papers pointed out that while the UK would still recognise most EEA qualifications in the case of a no-deal Brexit, European medical regulators would not continue to accept UK qualifications.
The GMC warned that the loss of recognition of UK qualifications could have implications for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education in the UK, as around 5% and 4% respectively of those who enrol in these programmes comes from the EEA.
Our sister title Pulse, where this article was first published, understands that this scenario would only occur if the UK failed to reach a deal with the EU before the Brexit deadline – 31 October – as the UK would no longer be part of the EU Directive, which governs the recognition of professional qualifications across the EU.
Under a no-deal scenario, EEA nationals would be treated as international medical graduates.
But in April, the Government announced changes to the Medical Act to ensure the relevant EEA qualifications would still be recognised in the UK regardless of the Brexit deal outcome.
The GMC papers state: ‘The draft Medical Act amendments legislating for a “no-deal” Brexit were adopted in March and will be enacted should we have a “no deal” Brexit.
‘We worked closely with Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials and lawyers to make sure that the amended Act allows us to register doctors who qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) in a timely and streamlined way without compromising standards.
‘DHSC officials have worked closely with officials in the devolved governments, and we have also engaged closely with these officials to ensure we are considering things appropriately from a four-country perspective.’
The papers continued: ‘We understand however that the arrangement to continue to recognise the majority of EEA qualifications will not be reciprocated by European medical regulators for UK qualifications.
‘This loss of recognition of UK qualifications does have potential implications for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education in the UK bearing in mind that around five per cent and four per cent respectively of participants in those programmes are from the EEA.
‘It remains to be seen whether UK medical education will continue to attract applications at this level when the qualifications conferred no longer benefit from automatic recognition throughout Europe.’
In March, the BMA wrote to its European office in Brussels, warning about the repercussions a no-deal scenario could have on the 4,434 EU nationals currently studying medicine in the UK.
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘We are extremely concerned by what a no-deal scenario means for the future of the almost 5,000 EU nationals currently studying medicine in the UK who will be treated as “third country nationals” should they seek to return home to work, which is why the BMA has been lobbying individual countries at every opportunity to amend their regulations to recognise UK qualifications.
‘In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK has said it will continue to recognise the majority of EU qualifications, and we are asking our European neighbours to reciprocate such an agreement. Ireland is leading the way with this, and we would urge other member states to follow suit.
‘It is simply unfair for medical students who took up places in the UK – whether they are EEA or UK nationals – to be punished because of a political situation that is out of their hands.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock previously pledged to lift immigration restrictions for all qualified doctors and nurses from all around the world if he became the next Prime Minister.
A recent survey found that more than half of practice managers predicted Brexit will make medicines shortages worse.
Meanwhile, primary care minister Steve Brine resigned in March over Brexit fears, and in February, Health and Social Care Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston resigned from the Conservative Party in protest over Brexit.
A version of this article was first published by our sister title Pulse.