This morning, the UK woke up to a majority vote to leave the EU. But how will this vote affect prospective medical students? And what about junior doctors? In this blog we’ll explore some of the facts about Medicine and the EU.
Brexit and medical education – what next?
We do not anticipate that the exceptional quality of medical education in Britain will be in anyway compromised. But it’s hard gauge all the ramifications for UK healthcare in general. Much is contingent of the forthcoming period of negotiation. Some people think the NHS will be strengthened; others say it could suffer. So, let’s take a closer look at some key areas.
There were 20,100 first time undergraduate applicants to medicine in the 2016 cycle. Of these, 10%, or 2,050, were from the EU. UK and EU citizens apply on the same terms, the same process, the same competition ratios and the same fees.
So, what will happen when the UK leaves the EU?
Will the number of applicants to medicine fall? This may initially seem appealing to prospective medical students, but, is it equally appealing to patients? Being a doctor requires many different skills. As such, we need to choose those applicants who are best suited to the career.
With fewer applicants, will we still be able to train doctors to the same high quality?
The NHS has gone through a tough time recently, with staff shortages frequently debated in both healthcare circles and the media. As it stands, medical degrees awarded in EU countries are valid in the UK. This encourages the movement of doctors and sharing of knowledge between countries. There are 30,082 doctors currently registered with the GMC who trained at a Medical School in the European Economic Area (EEA). This represents almost 11% of UK doctors. In fact, when we look at all international doctors there are some 100,486 doctors who trained outside the UK, almost 37% of all doctors.
The UK has a high dependence on foreign-born medical staff. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) put Britain’s dependency on foreign born doctors as one of the highest in the EU, second only to Luxembourg. This doesn’t just apply to doctors. Almost 22% of nurses were born outside of the UK.
How will the split from the EU impact on staff shortages, recruitment and ultimately patient care, especially in shortage specialities such as Emergency Medicine?
Perhaps if fewer EU students and doctors move to the UK we need to think about increasing the number of Medical School places available.
One of the arguments put forward by the ‘Leave’ campaign was that leaving the EU would benefit the NHS. Amongst various arguments, one was that we would save £350 million which could be used for the NHS. However, on Good Morning Britain the morning after the results, this potential extra funding for the NHS was dismissed as not guaranteed.
The reality is Britain’s economic forecast currently looks uncertain. How this will affect the NHS remains to be seen.
Britain offers world-leading medical education. We believe that will remain the case. But it is only over the next months and years we will begin to see a clearer picture of how this vote will truly affect the NHS and medical education.