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Post-Brexit views of European Union doctors on their future in the NHS: a qualitative study
  1. William Chick1,
  2. Mark Exworthy2
  1. 1 University of Birmingham Health Services Management Centre, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Health Services Management Centre, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to William Chick, University of Birmingham Health Services Management Centre, Birmingham B15 2RT, UK; wdc373{at}


Background/aim Following large-scale surveys suggesting that large proportions of European doctors are considering leaving the National Health Service (NHS) following the Brexit referendum, this was the first qualitative study assessing if, and how, Brexit has affected European Union (EU) doctors’ views of working in the NHS and their future intentions.

Methods Data were collected from 17 semistructured, qualitative interviews with doctors working at two NHS England trusts, who either had citizenship or had received their primary medical qualification from a member state of the European Economic Area. Transcripts from the interviews were then subjected to thematic content analysis.

Results Despite the majority of EU doctors believing that Brexit would not affect their jobs or rights in the UK, for many the referendum itself and its political handling had made them feel unwanted, undervalued and uncertain about their futures in the NHS. Most doctors intended to remain working in the UK; however, for several interviewees, this, along with fears regarding their future working conditions, had led to them considering leaving the NHS.

Conclusions Some European doctors are now considering leaving the NHS following the Brexit referendum, and their retention will be partly dependent on whether the government and the NHS can persuade them that they are both wanted and valued in the UK, and that their future working conditions will not be significantly affected.

  • politics
  • health policy
  • management
  • recruitment

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Prior to recruitment and data collection, the lead author applied for, and received, ethical approval from the University of Birmingham’s Internal Research and Ethics Committee, as well as the Research and Development departments of the two NHS England trusts used for recruitment. University of Birmingham BMedSc Population Sciences and Humanities Internal Ethics Review Committee reference number Y16_C2_12_SJCH.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.