Brexit has exacerbated the shortage of doctors in the UK, resulting in an estimated shortfall of 4,000 EU doctors across four main specialties, according to a study by the Center for Health Professionals.
The study, commissioned by The Guardian, comes as the public health system struggles after years of austerity, with record hospital waiting lists due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also due to shortages of doctors and nurses.
The Nuffield Foundation looked at four specialties – anesthesiology, paediatrics, cardiac surgery and psychiatry – in which the highest percentage of European doctors worked before the UK left the EU.
Among these four sectors, “employee growth has slowed in EU or EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).” If the trend seen before Brexit continues, more than 41,000 EU and EFTA doctors are registered in 2021, 4,000 less than the number registered. According to the think tank, “the campaign and results of the (2016) referendum to leave the EU are one of the obvious reasons for this change of direction.”
This is due to the uncertainty about the new rules for the movement of people, then the tightening of the rules for issuing visas and finally the general “deterioration of working conditions” in the health system. “These findings suggest that stagnation in the number of doctors from the EU has exacerbated existing shortages in areas where the NHS cannot find skilled workers elsewhere,” the report added.
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