Almost half NHS doctors from EEA considering leaving the United Kingdom, survey reveals

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Nearly one in five European doctors working in the NHS have made "solid plans" to leave the United Kingdom because of Brexit, with medics citing a perception that foreigners are no longer welcome and an uncertainty about their professional futures as their man reasons for moving.

A total of 12,000 doctors - almost 7.7 per cent of the medical workforce - is from the EEA and 18 per cent of them have made plans to leave, the British Medical Association (BMA) found.

A British Medical Association (BMA) poll of 1,720 doctors from European Economic Area countries also found that almost half are considering quitting. "Many have dedicated years of service to the NHS and medical research in the United Kingdom, and without them our health service would not be able to cope".

They urged the Government to guarantee permanent residence rights for European Union doctors and medical researchers, and a flexible future immigration system which supports health and medical research in the UK.

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'We need clarity on what the future holds for European Union citizens and their families living in the United Kingdom, and an end to the uncertainty and insecurity that could see many voting with their feet.

The BMA and other NHS groups have been calling for the Government to immediately confirm European Union nationals' right to remain after Britain officially exits the European Union, as well as to lay out a system to allow European Union doctors and other key NHS staff to be able to easily move to the United Kingdom and work in the system without burdensome red tape.

BMA treasurer Dr Andrew Dearden said it was crucial the NHS doesn't lose "valuable experience and expertise" because of Brexit.

Of the EEA doctors questioned for the survey, 45% said they were considering leaving the United Kingdom, with a further 29% saying they were not sure whether they would leave or not.

77% of those surveyed by the BMA said they would be more likely to leave the United Kingdom if there was a negative outcome in Brexit negotiations over citizens' rights.

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Germany, Spain and Australia are the most popular choices of country to move to, the survey found.

The Department of Health criticised the findings, saying there were more EEA nationals on the United Kingdom medical register this year than at the time of the Brexit vote - 21,609 compared to 21,539 as in June 2016.

Dr Marco Nardini, a thoracic surgery trainee from Italy who moved back in August 2017 after spending nearly two years in the United Kingdom said Brexit and the uncertainty around it was a "key factor" in his move.

"One of my main concerns was around whether my qualifications would continue to be recognised overseas and in the United Kingdom", he said.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described the survey's findings as "extremely worrying".

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"These new figures from the BMA are alarming, especially at a time when the NHS workforce is already under enormous pressure because of staff shortages, and impending winter difficulties are only going to exacerbate the problem", he said.

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