UK should ‘return to free movement’ to help fill NHS vacancies says GP

29 December 2022, 13:12

GP says UK should 'return to free movement'

By Phoebe Dampare Osei

The UK has “suffered” the loss of about 4000 doctors and more than 30,000 nurses since Brexit, a general practitioner told Emily Thornberry.

One caller told Labour MP Emily Thornberry that if the UK wants to solve the vacancy crisis within the NHS, more workers need to be brought in from the EU.

Peter in Oxford, a GP of 40 years who is now a locum doctor, said: “Many of the roles are being filled by people like me…this is the case across the NHS.”

“A very important avoidable cause is Brexit and the loss of free movement”, he explained, adding that before 2016, people used to come to the UK from the EU because it was “an attractive place to work”.

READ MORE: 'Don't give your cold to granny this Christmas,' Brits warned, as NHS prepares for 'darkest winter to date'

The GP, who also teaches at Oxford University went on: “We have suffered, according to the Nuffield Trust, a loss of something like 4000 doctors and 30,000 plus nurses in comparison to what we would have had, had we continued to be in the EU.”

“It’s in the power of the government or perhaps its successor - which we hope will be Labour - to change that by committing again to returning to free movement, as we had before”, he continued.

NHS worker says time and resources have been wasted

The Labour MP then described her party’s plan, should they be elected into power, saying the party is “committed” to doubling the number of medical places for doctors and training an extra 10,000 nurses and midwives.

She felt it was “extraordinary that only half the number of doctors that we need are qualifying in Britain for British hospitals”.

Emily added that “we shouldn’t just always be relying on the sugar rush of bringing people in from other countries”, saying that "many" healthcare professionals are coming from the developing world “who desperately need to have their doctors and nurses to remain at home”.

READ MORE: Nurses 19% pay deal is 'unaffordable' health sec insists as placard-waving medics launch biggest ever NHS strike

In response to her Oxford caller’s suggestion that the UK should “return to free movement”, Mrs Thornberry explained that a “complete” version of that was not necessary, suggesting a better alternative would be to fill the vacancies on a points-based system.

This exchange took place while the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury was standing in for James O’Brien.