Brexit has worsened the doctor shortage in the UK, leading to an estimated shortfall of 4,000 EU doctors in four major specialties, according to a study by a specialist health think tank published on Sunday 27 November.
This study, carried out at the initiative of the daily The Guardian is published as the public health system (NHS) suffers many difficulties after years of austerity, with record hospital waiting lists due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also shortages of doctors and nurses.
A study of four theses
The Nuffield Trust looked at four specialties – anaesthesia, paediatrics, cardiothoracic surgery and psychiatry – where European doctors were particularly represented before the UK left the EU. In these four specialties, which are already experiencing tensions in their recruitment, “the increase in staff from the EU or from countries in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, namely Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) has slowed“, the study shows.
If the trend observed before Brexit had continued, there should have been more than 41,000 EU and EFTA doctors registered in 2021, or at least 4,000 more than the numbers actually observed. For the Nuffield Trust, “the campaign and the result of the referendum (in 2016 to leave the EU) are the obvious reasons for this change in trend“.
On the question: firstly the uncertainty about the new rules for the movement of people, then the tightening of the rules for issuing visas and finally a “deterioration of working conditionsgenerally in the health system. “These findings suggest that the stagnation in the number of EU doctors in these specialties has exacerbated existing shortages in areas where the NHS is unable to find skilled labor elsewhere.“, adds the study.