A shambolic Tory Brexit will exacerbate NHS workforce shortages, the deputy chair of Doctors in Unite has said.
Dr Jackie Applebee said the government’s anti-immigrant stance – exemplified by Theresa May’s “hostile environment” rhetoric – dearth of a post-Brexit immigration policy and lack of clarity over the exact position of EU citizens living in the UK once it leaves, could result in the NHS’ workforce being “spread even more thinly”.
Dr Applebee said: “While we’ve got a real workforce shortage we should be embracing people coming to work in the NHS. I work in Tower Hamlets and I can reel off at least ten GPs from the EU without thinking about it.
“When free movement ends there’s obviously going to be more barriers put up, which is going to make it more difficult for EU health workers to come and work in the NHS. We’re going to be spread even more thinly because of Brexit, not just doctors but across the whole NHS workforce. We’re really going to suffer from that point of view.”
Dr Applebee also highlighted uncertainty amongst GPs from the EU over residency rights.
She said: “While a number of my EU colleagues have families here and are not thinking of going back, they are worried about the uncertainty. Some are applying for citizenship but it costs money and is a complex and drawn out process.
“I think (younger health professionals) who haven’t been here as long might just work somewhere else instead. There are also lots of other lower paid EU health workers, such as healthcare assistants, who might not be able to afford the application costs.”
Applebee added: “There’s also concern over how Brexit will impact the movement and development of pharmaceuticals and research and scientific collaboration.
“I can’t see the European Commission allowing the UK to cherry pick what it wants or being let off lightly because that would set a precedent for other countries to follow. The government is also tearing itself apart over Brexit so it’s difficult to see them making much progress.”