Failure to protect recognition of professional qualifications following Brexit could seriously damage the quantity and quality of NHS care, the BMA has warned.
Standards of health in the UK and Europe risk being undermined unless existing regulations on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ) are maintained, a BMA-organised event at the House of Lords has heard.
The association’s treasurer Andrew Dearden spoke at the event, along with senior representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, British Dental Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Royal Institute of British Architects, British Veterinary Association and the Law Society.
Dr Dearden said MRPQ provided a common framework for training and standards in medicine, and allowed medical students to train in one country and then go on to practise in another.
He added that patients were protected by the regulations through a cross-border alert system known as the Internal Market Information System, which notifies regulators across the continent about doctors and other healthcare professionals who are subject to fitness-to-practise restrictions or prohibitions.
He said: ‘MRPQ plays a fundamental role in helping doctors deliver high-quality healthcare, not just in the UK but across Europe.
‘There are about 12,000 doctors working in England alone who gained their primary medical qualification outside the UK but within the EEA. In London and the south of England, some trusts [have] nearly 20 per cent of doctors qualified within the EEA.
‘We’re clear that without doctors being able to move across the continent, here in the UK we would be seriously damaged in our ability to maintain both the quantity and quality of [NHS] care.’
The meeting heard how the mutual recognition of qualifications is currently set to remain in place following the UK’s exit in March 2019, until the end of the transition period in December 2020.
Dr Dearden said while that was welcome, this arrangement provided no reassurance to the around 3,500 EEA students currently studying medicine at UK universities, who would qualify after 2020 and potentially find themselves unable to practise medicine in their home countries.
The BMA, which is calling for a public vote on the terms of any final Brexit deal, is now urging both the UK and EU to maintain existing agreements on MRPQ beyond the end of the transition period.
The Government is due to provide further detail on the UK’s proposed future economic relationship with the EU in a white paper due to be published next week.
Speaking at the meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Department for Exiting the European Union minister Robin Walker said ensuring that recognition of doctors and other professional skills was an ‘important aspect’ in the UK and EU negotiations.
He said: ‘British services and medicine do have a global reputation for quality, and that global reputation has been made possible in part by the freedom that we have to work and practise outside the UK, and to attract key talent from across the European Economic Area.
‘Making sure that we can continue to practise and work across Europe after we leave the EU will be an important aspect of the new partnership we want to agree [with the EU]; it’s our intention that the future economic partnership includes further provisions for professions, such as yours, to continue working and sharing knowledge with partners in the European Union.’