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Concern about NHS is key factor in shift in views on Brexit

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4799 (Published 12 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4799

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Re: Concern about NHS is key factor in shift in views on Brexit

My morning routine typically centres on a hasty coffee while reading the morning news. As expected a large proportion of this is taken up by coverage of Brexit and the developing negotiations. As a full time NHS junior doctor I imagine that, like my colleagues any discussion on impact on the health survive quickly draws my attention away from thoughts of just a couple more minutes' sleep.

One of the elements I have been following with most interest is how the withdrawal from the EU will affect our European colleagues, whom we are so highly dependent on. In my own trust we have a number of European nationals supporting departments in a wide range of roles and grades. Recent government polling has put the figure at around 5.6% of all NHS staff. With concerns over another winter bed crisis and staff shortages, predictably this is a topic that is regularly discussed in the media.

In my surgical department we have recently started accepting doctors under the School of Surgery program. This is an initiative set up to recruit and retain SHO grade clinicians into a two-year program, which mirrors the traditional core trainee pathway. Trainees are typically from outside the United Kingdom, with a large percentage from EU countries. The School of Surgery program offers two six-month rotations over a two-year period with the opportunity to obtain a masters degree in the process. As with core training this is aimed to make them eligible for ST3 level on completion.

I personally feel this is an excellent initiative. It attracts motivated and engaged clinicians, filling much needed roles on rota gaps. As in many specialities we are seeing the impact of reduced progression to further training and hence these programs not only relieve staff shortages but also limit reliance on locum staff. This has both a direct benefit to the standard of care we are able to provide but also has a significant financial benefit to the NHS as a whole.

It is gratifying to see the NHS is one of the public's leading concerns when considering Brexit. I am pleased to see the introduction of programs like the School of Surgery which make the upmost use of our European and international colleagues. I would hope that initiatives like this aren’t affected by a withdrawal from the EU and that the public continue to take a interest in how this could impact our services.

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 November 2018
James Walmsley
Junior Surgical Fellow
Queen's Hospital Romford
Romford