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Following the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday, the British Medical Association has urged the government to grant EU doctors living in the UK permanent residence. This would help to ease pressure on the NHS, as there are currently 10,000 doctors working in the NHS who qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA). This represents 7% of the total workforce, with even higher proportions currently working in academic medicine and public health.
A survey carried out by BMA last June following the EU referendum revealed that four out of ten EU doctors were considering leaving the UK in light of the result. This would be disastrous for the NHS, which is reliant on EU workers to deal with staff shortages in the number of roles. Automatically granting these workers living in the UK permanent residence would go some way in securing these roles.
The BMA went even further to say that the future of immigration between the UK and the EU should be flexible enough to allow the NHS to recruit from the EU bloc. Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair noted: “While Theresa May says ‘Brexit means Brexit’, for the thousands of European doctors working in the UK, all it means is uncertainty as to whether they and their families will have the right to stay here.”
He continued: “It won’t be a case of losing doctors from the EEA and replacing them with British doctors – it takes at least 10 years to train a doctor.” This paints a bleak picture for an already struggling NHS, and Dr Porter predicts that without the support of EU workers, patient care would be dramatically impacted. At present, EU doctors living in the UK have reported feeling like they are living in limbo while their fate is decided.
Until the result of the EU referendum was announced, EEA PR was a largely obscure status. It grants residents from the EEA bloc the right to live and work in the UK and entitles them to all the benefits of a British citizen. Although the triggering of Article 50 won’t have any immediate effect on EEA workers in the UK, the government has yet to offer any reassurances that their current position will be secure at the end of the two-year negotiation process. You can read more about EEA PR here.
If you’re concerned about your status in the UK and would like to start the UK permanent residence process, get in touch with your nearest IAS office here.