Brexit: A French Doctor Working in London Sees Unrest

Aude Lecrubier

Disclosures

April 16, 2019

With the Brexit deadline having just been pushed back to 31st October 2019, how are health professionals from the European Union, working in the UK, dealing with this difficult period? What are their concerns?

Medscape's French edition put these questions to French doctor, Dr Guillaume Lafaurie, who is employed in London as the head of a digestive surgery clinic.

   

Dr Guillaume Lafaurie

After studying medicine for 6 years in Rennes, the Breton student crossed the channel 5 years ago to start his surgery internship in Oxford, then London. He currently practises at the Queen Elizabeth General Hospital in Woolwich.

The 'Franco-British' are already feeling the consequences of the Brexit vote, he tells us.

Brexit Attitudes

According to a British Medical Association (BMA) survey, undertaken at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, of more than  1500 doctors from the EU working in the UK, 35% were thinking of leaving the  United Kingdom. The main reasons for this were:

  • The UK's decision to leave the EU

  • The negative attitude towards people from the EU working in the UK

  • The uncertainty regarding future immigration status

  • The way the UK government treats EU workers

  • 78% of the respondents did not feel reassured by the Prime Minister's commitment to protect their rights in the event of a 'no-deal'

Some more figures:

Of the 1.5 million NHS health professionals:

  • 1 in 20 are from the EU

  • 9% are doctors

  • 5% are nurses and midwives

  • 16% are dentists

2385 nurses and midwives left the UK in 2018.

Source : Cavendish Coalition/NMC

Q&A

What effect has the Brexit vote had on health professionals from the European Union who work in the UK?

Brexit has led to a low morale among European health professionals working in England. I know many nurses, auxiliary nurses, and even doctors who are trying to return back to their countries of origin. Unfortunately, many Europeans feel that the English no longer want them here. Often health professionals from the EU come and only settle here for a few years. Brexit has been a trigger for many of them. They have decided to go back.

Are British doctors for or against Brexit?

I think that the majority of them are against Brexit. Out of the 1000 doctors I have met in England during the past 5 years only one of them voted in favour of Brexit. According to a survey published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 8 out of 10 doctors voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. I feel very supported by my English colleagues.

How has Brexit been welcomed by your patients?

It is difficult to know their opinion but I would say that there are no longer any anti-European reactions as previously. On the contrary, many patients support us and have voiced their lack of understanding regarding Brexit. I have even seen patients with European Union badges!

Will it be more difficult to be cared for in the UK if you are from the EU?

No, this should not be a problem. For United Kingdom residents, care is free to the public and it is the same for anyone travelling to the United Kingdom who needs to attend the Emergency Department.

With regards to the European Union Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it is highly likely that agreements will be made so that nothing changes.

In terms of Brexit, can doctors from the European Union who are employed in England continue to practice?

We received a statement from the General Medical Council (GMC),  which stated that there should be no problem for doctors who are resident and practising in England. There will be no dismissals. They will continue to practice.

And what about those who want to come and settle here, will Brexit make the procedure more complicated?

If you are planning on settling here, the situation could be more complicated and depends on the possible quotas established by England. But, it seems that the government wishes to facilitate the arrival of Europeans.

According to the GMC, degree equivalence between England and European countries should be maintained.

However, it will be a little more complicated to transfer French degrees to England. Certified translation of degrees by a notary will no longer be sufficient. The administrative procedure will be more complex and will go through the Conseil de l'Ordre.

Conversely, will doctors from the United Kingdom be able to work in the EU as previously?

According to the Conseil de l'Ordre [the French equivalent of the GMC], if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will no longer recognise UK doctor qualifications. They must therefore register as a third country. The procedures are different from one country to another, therefore they must make enquiries on a case-by-case basis.

More globally, what other consequences could Brexit have on healthcare?

It will all depend on the conditions in which the United Kingdom leaves Europe. If there is a no deal, there is the risk of drug shortages (insulin, vaccines...). Also, if there is a staff reduction, replacements will need to be found. I know that there are already hospitals who are trying to keep their European staff by assisting with and/or paying their residency fees. For example, for those who have been practising in England for 5 years, it is possible to request a permanent residency fee which costs £2000 to £3000. Some hospitals have decided to pay these fees.

Finally, in terms of research, there are a lot of exchanges between large medical universities via Erasmus or postdocs. This could become more complicated.

This article was translated from Medscape's French Edition.

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