Worthing doctor may leave UK after Brexit

W40C gp column 

Dr Birgit Woolley from Victoria Road Surgery, Worthing. SUS-140610-102749001
W40C gp column Dr Birgit Woolley from Victoria Road Surgery, Worthing. SUS-140610-102749001

A Worthing doctor who has worked in the town for two decades is considering leaving the country after Brexit.

Birgit Wooley, a partner at Victoria Road Surgery who is originally from Germany, is among the 42 per cent of doctors from Europe surveyed by the British Medical Association thinking about leaving following the EU referendum result.

The survey of 1,193 doctors from the European Economic Area working in the UK found that overall staff felt less appreciated by the UK Government and also felt significantly less committed to working in the UK.

Around 10,000 doctors who work in the NHS, more than six per cent of the UK medical workforce, qualified in the EEA.

Dr Woolley, who has been a GP in the UK for twenty years and also volunteers as a counsellor for a local charity, said: “Since the result of the EU referendum I feel increasingly uncertain about my future here, and am considering returning to Germany.

“It is unsettling that in a country that I have contributed to for twenty years and consider home, I am now seen as a foreigner and have to prove that I deserve to live and work here.

“I feel supported by my patients, with even those that voted leave telling me: ‘You can stay because you’re a doctor. We like you. We didn’t mean you.’

“But the reality is that the government does not appreciate what EU nationals like me have contributed to the UK, and only sees us as bargaining chips.”

Since the vote to leave the EU, the BMA has been calling on the Government to ensure long-term stability for health services across the UK, by making sure that any future immigration system is flexible enough to enable overseas doctors to continue being employed.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “While thousands of overseas and EU doctors work across the UK to provide the best possible care for patients, many from the EU are left feeling unwelcome and uncertain about whether they and their families will have the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

“These are the people who staff our hospitals and GP surgeries, look after vulnerable patients in the community, and conduct vital medical research to help save lives.

“Many have dedicated years of service to healthcare in the UK, so it’s extremely concerning that so many are considering leaving.

“At a time when the NHS is already at breaking point and facing crippling staff shortages, this would be a disaster and threaten the delivery of high-quality patient care. But this isn’t just about numbers. The quality of patient care is improved where doctors have diverse experiences and expertise.

“The government must act now to ensure long-term stability across the healthcare system by providing certainty to medical professionals from the EU about their future in the UK.

“It must also ensure that a future immigration system allows the NHS to continue employing EU and overseas doctors to fill staff shortages in the health service.”

Recent figures show that across England, Wales and Northern Ireland the number of doctor vacancies has increased by around 60 per cent between 2013 and 2015.

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