Tory MPs can’t quite agree about the NHS Brexit bonus

Headshots of Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Jenkyns

Conservative MPs are having a bit of a disagreement about the benefits of Brexit. In comments to the Telegraph, health minister Stephen Barclay has suggested [paywall] that medical students could qualify as doctors more quickly after Brexit. He said [paywall]:

At the moment you don’t qualify as a doctor when you leave medical school – you have to do a further year and that brings with it some additional costs.

Currently, medical students aren’t registered as doctors until they’ve practised for a year after medical school. An independent review in 2013 suggested [pdf, p32] that medical students should be registered once they complete medical school. The British Medical Association (BMA), however, was not happy with the idea, saying in a response to the review:

The BMA is not convinced it is possible to produce doctors who are fit to practise under these conditions.

Leave.EU likes the idea

The recommendation to move the point of registration was made in 2013, long before the EU referendum was announced. However, that did not prevent Leave.EU from claiming that shortening medical training was another benefit of Brexit:

And Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns was also quick to jump on the bandwagon:

“Very very silly straws”

Twitter was not impressed by Jenkyns, though:

“This is rubbish”

And whilst Jenkyns was saying that it was “fantastic and great” to see Barclay explaining the benefits of Brexit to the NHS, another Conservative MP – and qualified doctor – debunked the idea that the EU was setting the rules on medical training:

Nearly half of EU doctors considering leaving

There’s evidence that, if Brexit goes ahead, it will add to the crisis in NHS staffing. In 2017, a BMA survey of EU doctors working in the UK found that 45% were considering leaving following the Brexit vote, with a further 29% unsure. The reasons they gave for wanting to leave were the vote itself, negative attitudes towards EU workers, and uncertainty about future immigration rules.

Despite all the evidence, Stephen Barclay is suggesting [paywall] that Brexit could lead to “opportunities” for the NHS. One of those “opportunities” is supposedly reducing the length of medical training – even though that has nothing to do with the EU. He seems to be inventing EU regulations in order to try to reduce the massive damage which Brexit will cause to the NHS. Straw-clutching indeed.

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