Almost half of European NHS doctors surveyed said they were considering leaving the UK after Brexit.
LONDON — Almost one in five European doctors working in the UK have made concrete plans to leave the country following the Brexit referendum, a survey has shown.
The British Medical Association survey of doctors from the European Economic Area also found that almost half are considering leaving the UK, adding to fears that there will be a brain drain once the UK leaves the European Union.
12,000 NHS doctors, or 7.7% of total staff, are from the EEA, so the research shows that problems of recruitment and retention could be exacerbated by Brexit.
The BMA spoke to 1720 medics of which 45% said they were considering leaving the UK, and 18% said they had already made plans to emigrate.
Doctors cited three main reasons for leaving, which were the UK's decision to leave the EU, a negative attitude towards EU workers in Britain and confusion over the future of immigration rules.
The BMA's treasurer, Dr Andrew Dearden said: "That so many EU doctors are actively planning to leave the UK is a cause for real concern. Many have dedicated years of service to the NHS and medical research in the UK, and without them, our health service would not be able to cope.
"We need clarity on what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK, and an end to the uncertainty and insecurity that could see many voting with their feet."
It was reported in June that there had been a 96% drop in EU nurses registering in Britain following the Brexit vote, adding to the issue of there being a shortage gap of 30,000 nurses in the NHS.
77% of those surveyed by the BMA said they would be more likely to leave the UK if there was a negative outcome in Brexit negotiations over citizens' rights.
Labour's shadow health secretary John Ashworth said: "Theresa May must urgently safeguard the future of EU workers and stop treating them as bargaining chips in her reckless Brexit negotiations. Failure to do so seriously risks increasing staff shortages and exacerbating the already dire crisis in our health and care system."
Labour MP Darren Jones, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign said: "The British people were told last year that Brexit would boost the NHS by £350 million a week. Now the evidence is piling up that it will break it instead. We have already seen the number of nurses from the EU coming to Britain fall by 96% since the referendum, and now it is clear European doctors are making plans to leave too.
"To prevent the catastrophe of a Brexodus of NHS workers, the Government must immediately and unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals living and working in Britain, and make clear that our immigration system will remain welcoming in future."
Prime Minister Theresa May has promised that EU nationals will be allowed to stay in Britain following Brexit, but the government have not unilaterally guaranteed the rights of those living in the UK.
A Department for Health spokesperson told the Guardian that the research was inaccurate. They said: "This survey does not stand up to scrutiny. In fact, there are actually more EU doctors working in the NHS since the EU referendum, more EU graduates joining the UK medical register and 3,193 more EU nationals working in the NHS overall."