Brexit for Doctors – the long read

You will be aware that the UK is in the process of leaving the European Union (EU). Recently, the date for leaving the EU was pushed back from the 29 March 2019 to April or May 2019.

Many of us have questions about how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will change the NHS and our working lives as doctors.

Whilst most publicly available information on Brexit is conjecture, we have collated as much relevant, factual information as we can, to provide you with an evidence-based overview of Brexit.

Here at Messly, we hope the information below will answer some of the questions you might have on how Brexit will affect doctors. This information is correct at time of publication (21 March 2019) and will be updated if and when new information is available.


how brexit will affect NHS and doctors


Essential Information from the GMC & HEE

From Europe?

    • If an agreement is reached between the UK and the EU, the UK will be in a transition period until 31 December 2020. Until that point, EU citizens and their families will be able to move to the UK with the same rights to work and study freely as before the transition period.
    • The registration status of the majority of doctors from the EEA and Switzerland who already hold registration with the GMC will not be affected when the UK leaves the EU.
    • If the GMC think your registration status may be affected by Brexit (for example EEA or Swiss doctors holding temporary and occasional registration), the GMC will contact you to discuss what options are available to you.
    • For EU citizens who already live in the UK, you are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. All EU citizens who have lived in the UK for more than five years continuously will be eligible for ‘settled status’ (equivalent to indefinite leave to remain).
    • If you have lived in the UK for less than five years you will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’ and can upgrade this to ‘settled status’ when you have been here for five years. More information on the settlement scheme can be found here.


Thinking of joining the medical register?

  • As we don’t yet know what the terms of our exit from the EU will be, there is still uncertainty around how this might impact on EEA or Swiss doctors wishing to join our register after the UK leaves the EU.
  • However, the GMC has been working with the UK Government and officials in the devolved nations to make sure there are no disproportionate obstacles for EEA or Swiss doctors wishing to work here in the future.
  • For further information from the GMC, please click here


What if there’s no deal?

  • In the event that an agreement is not reached, there will be a transition period once free movement ends and before the UK’s new immigration system begins in 2021.
  • During this transition period, newly arriving EU citizens will still be able to enter the UK as they do now for an initial stay of up to three months and will be able to visit, work or study without applying for a visa, but they will not be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • If you want to stay in the UK for longer than three months, you can apply from within the UK for ‘European Temporary Leave to Remain’, which will be granted for a further 36 months, subject to identity, criminality and security checks.
  • For further information from HEE, please click here



It is difficult to ascertain just how great the effects of Brexit will be to the NHS and medicine in the UK. Below are brief points on major areas of change.



  • EU citizens working in the UK will be able to apply for ‘pre-settled status’ or ‘settled status’. For more information, click here.
  • Non-EEA* citizens working for the NHS are now exempt from Tier 2 visa salary restrictions. On March 7th, the Home Office issued a memo announcing that nurses, paramedics and medical radiographers, amongst other professions, would be exempt from the £30,000 salary restriction.
  • *The EEA refers to EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway



Medicine Supply

  • The UK currently imports 37 million packs of medicine each month from the EU. A July 2018 report from the European Medical Agency declared their “major concerns” around the availability of pharmaceutical products on the EU market come Brexit, and the likelihood of disruption of supplies to both EU countries and UK in the future.
  • As part of a no-deal contingency plan, the government asked pharmaceutical companies to stockpile a six-week supply of medicines.
  • Patients, GPs and hospitals have been discouraged from stockpiling, with the government insisting that this could make the situation worse.



  • In June 2018 the prime minister announced that the NHS budget would increase by £20.5bn by 2023, amounting to more than £350m a week.
  • However, since the UK is committed to paying into the EU budget until the end of the transition period and will also have to pay the £39bn “divorce bill”, it arguably leaves little to cover the cost of the rise. The Treasury has said a combination of economic growth and tax rises may be needed.


Further Links

For more information about the UK’s Future Immigration System from the Home Office, click here.
For official Brexit guidance from General Medical Council click here.
For official Brexit guidance from Health Education England please click here and scroll down to “Brexit Update”.


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