Vote: Should European NHS staff be able to stay in the UK after Brexit?
Four in five doctors fear for the future of the NHS post-Brexit, new research suggests.
A survey of more than 1,000 medics found the majority believe the impact on the NHS of leaving the European Union will be negative. The poll also revealed that nearly all of those surveyed agreed that European NHS staff should be able to remain in the UK post-Brexit. What do you think? Vote in our poll to share your views.
The survey was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and also found nearly four-fifths of the medics questioned (79%) voted remain in the referendum - significantly higher than the general population.
The poll found being a surgeon or having a higher income was associated with more right-wing views while public health doctors and psychiatrists were more left-wing-minded.
Nearly all of the 1,172 UK doctors surveyed agreed European NHS staff should be able to remain in the UK.
The survey of medics, who were members of the online professional network doctors.net.uk, also quizzed doctors on their political views on other health issues.
The majority thought there was too much use of NHS-funded private sector provision, that the UK should introduce minimum alcohol pricing, that there should be a protected portion of national spending for the NHS and that patients should be charged for non-urgent care if they are not eligible for free NHS treatment.
The authors, led by an expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wrote: "The UK is going through a politically turbulent period that could have a profound effect on the health of the population.
"Doctors are visible advocates on health issues, yet little is known about the political views of doctors themselves.
"Most UK doctors are left-leaning and liberal, but political views vary significantly by specialty, grade and income.
"Doctors in the UK have voted differently from the general public in recent polls.
"Most doctors think Brexit will have a negative impact on the National Health Service."
Dr Kate Mandeville, lead author from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "This research comes at an important juncture in UK politics. Doctors are amongst the best-placed people to understand the impact of political decisions on the NHS.
"On Brexit their opinion is very clear: Brexit is bad for the nation's health.
"Our survey also found that the current Government lost support among doctors between the 2015 and 2017 general elections compared to an increase in support among the general public. This suggests that doctors in particular are very concerned about the Government's handling of the NHS."
Commenting on the study, Dr Andrew Dearden, treasurer at the British Medical Association, said: "The challenges posed by Brexit are considerable and though there has been some progress, there is too much uncertainty around what the implications will be for doctors and the health service.
"We already know, for example, that Brexit has already had a huge impact on the morale of EU NHS staff working here - our own research has shown us that almost half of NHS staff from the EU are considering leaving the UK because of the EU referendum.
"Though concerns were raised prior to the Brexit vote, no one could have imagined the extent of the complications such a result would bring. However, in light of what we know now, it is imperative that the public has a say in any proposed Brexit deal."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We want a deal with the EU that is good for the UK and good for the health service.
"That is why we have continued to work closely with the European Union to ensure there is minimal disruption to the NHS after we leave.
"Alongside that, we are continuing to work with industry in the unlikely event of a no-deal to ensure patients can continue to receive top quality care."