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Letters: Coverage of Brexit

The recent coverage on Brexit (HC&S July-August, p6-7) was somewhat pessimistic or, dare one say, biased.

The NHS has always employed “overseas” doctors and nurses, largely because we have never produced enough home-grown ones ourselves.

Prior to our joining the EU, most of them came from Commonwealth countries. I am informed that in fact, since our membership and the recent restrictions on “non-EU” immigrants, doctors from Commonwealth countries have found it more difficult to get jobs here.

There is also no reason to believe that any EU doctor or any other EU citizen already working here would have to leave – unless they committed a crime – and the same should apply to UK citizens living in the EU. Prior to the existence of the EU, people lived and worked “abroad.”

When it comes to EU-derived legislation, nobody wants to go back to the “bad old days” of working over 100 hours per week, but it is worth remembering there were agreements in place about “reduced” hours in place before laws based on the European Working Time Directive were introduced.

Since then, there has been considerable discussion in the surgical press about how the regulations are adversely affecting surgical training – trainees are finding it difficult to get the necessary operative experience needed to complete their training. Also, “compliant” rotas are endangering the “continuity of care” of patients.

On other laws emanating from the EU, for instance TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment), there is no reason why these should necessarily be abandoned when we leave. As I understand it, a new Act of Parliament would be required to repeal any existing UK law.

Finally, “professional standards” in the UK were regarded as “high” prior to our joining the EU – indeed, that is why so many overseas doctors wanted to come here for training.

In fact, when standards had to be “agreed across the EU,” many thought that our standards had to be lowered in order to get agreement across all EU countries.

I believe that the main difference when we “leave,” so far as the employment of doctors and other healthcare workers is concerned, is that it will then be our UK Parliament and professional bodies that will control how many doctors are needed in which branches of medicine (regardless of their country of origin), the terms and conditions of employment, and the professional standards that will apply to all.

However, regardless of whether we are in or out of the EU, there will still be a “staffing crisis” in the NHS!

Malcolm Morrison
Retired Orthopaedic Surgeon
HCSA Fellow, Swindon