Brexit has worsened the UK’s acute shortage of doctors in key areas of care and led to more than 4,000 European doctors choosing not to work in the NHS, research reveals.
The disclosure comes as growing numbers of medics quit in disillusionment at their relentlessly busy working lives in the increasingly overstretched health service. Official figures show the NHS in England alone has vacancies for 10,582 physicians.
Britain has 4,285 fewer European doctors than if the rising numbers who were coming before the Brexit vote in 2016 had been maintained since then, according to analysis by the Nuffield Trust health thinktank which it has shared with the Guardian.
In 2021, a total of 37,035 medics from the EU and European free trade area (EFTA) were working in the UK. However, there would have been 41,320 – or 4,285 more – if the decision to leave the EU had not triggered a “slowdown” in medical recruitment from the EU and the EFTA quartet of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
The dropoff has left four major types of medical specialities that have longstanding doctor shortages – anaesthetics, children, psychiatry, and heart and lung treatment – failing to keep up with a demand for care heightened by Covid and an ageing population.
The findings come amid calls from business leaders for ministers to rethink how immigration into Britain works to help overcome economy-wide labour shortages. These have deepened in recent years, partly as a result of the UK ending automatic free movement for EU nationals. The Confederation of British Industry has been particularly vocal in that demand.
Read more via The Telegraph