Nearly one in three GPs in parts of Birmingham is from abroad – but a no-deal Brexit may mean fewer of the “vitally-needed” family doctors.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that almost a third of GPs in Sandwell and West Birmingham qualified outside of the UK.
Experts have warned that a no-deal Brexit on October 31st could make it harder to recruit and retain these doctors – with EU doctors citing plans to leave Europe as a potential reason to quit the UK.
Other parts of Birmingham also have high proportions of GPs who qualified abroad.
This included 27.2% of GPs across Birmingham and Solihull CCG.
The figures reflect the situation across Clinical Commission Groups (responsible for health care services in local areas) at the end of March this year.
The numbers only include permanent GPs, excluding registrars and locums.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The NHS, general practice included, has long been supported by the skills and hard work of doctors and other healthcare professionals from overseas – and we are incredibly grateful for the work they do to help us deliver care to more than a million people every day.
“The impact of Brexit on recruitment and retention of GPs from EEA countries is a major concern for the College particularly at a time when we already have a severe shortage of family doctors in the UK. “We simply cannot afford to lose these qualified and skilled doctors from our health service, and the NHS workforce must remain a top priority throughout the Brexit negotiations.”
Nationally, there were 30,696 GPs with a recorded country of qualification as of March this year.
Almost one in five trained overseas, including 1,254 GPs from the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, GP committee executive team lead for workforce at the British Medical Association, said: “Doctors trained overseas – who bring with them a wealth of experience and skills – make up a significant proportion of the GP workforce and provide an invaluable contribution, caring for patients and supporting practices across the country every day.
“To make the most of the expertise that our international colleagues have to offer, however, government departments must work together to remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to recruitment, so that those who want to, and are appropriately qualified, can come to work in the UK.
“Furthermore, our most recent survey of EEA doctors found that more than a third were considering leaving the UK, citing Brexit among their key reasons for doing so.
“Given wider recruitment and retention problems in general practice, this is a real concern.
“The message to doctors from the EU and elsewhere in the world must be: you are welcome here.”
Earlier this month the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock wrote to all health and social care staff regarding Brexit preparations.
His letter said: “We reiterate our unwavering commitment and support to the EU staff who make an invaluable contribution across the UK.
“We want you to know you have a secure future here, after the UK leaves the EU.
“We want you to stay in the UK and, if you arrive on or before the day we leave the EU, you will have broadly the same rights and benefits you currently enjoy.
“This commitment stands whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.”
The NHS was contacted for comment.