brexit: the consequences for european qualified healthcare professionals

With the chaos that the UK’s decision to leave the EU brought two weeks ago, our Charlotte Ellis looks at the possible consequences for European qualified healthcare professionals currently working in the UK.

#

At present the qualification and training of healthcare professionals in the EU is regulated by EU Directives. This means that any European qualified healthcare professional wishing to register and work in the UK must satisfy EU regulations set out in Directives across the various healthcare sectors. There are various entry routes depending on the respective healthcare professions and the individual circumstances of each case.

Let’s take pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, for example. European qualified pharmacists must register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (“GPhC”) before they will be able to practise in the UK. Their name can be entered onto the register via two routes. The first route is by way of “automatic recognition” whereby the pharmacist or pharmacy technician has the “recognised qualifications” as set out in EU Directive 2005/36/EC and a certificate of good standing from their own EU member state. The second route applies where the pharmacist or pharmacy technician does not meet the conditions to enable them to register by “automatic recognition” but has been working in their chosen role within their own member state. This category of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must then undergo a comparative assessment by the GPhC which may identify further training needs before that candidate is successfully registered to work in the UK.

The European Economic Area has 28 member states of the EU and three countries within the European Free Trade Association.

Healthcare regulators cannot tell us how many healthcare professionals within their sector are UK trained and qualified and working in the EU. This is because there is no requirement to inform the regulatory bodies when a registrant is practising overseas, unless of course, this has come to light through fitness to practise proceedings being brought against the registrant by the regulator in the UK.

We do, however, have a better idea of how many healthcare professionals are EU trained, qualified and registered to practise within the UK. This is because such candidates need to choose a route to registration and, by definition, this is monitored.

Let’s look at the pharmacy sector again. The GPhC states that as of 1 June 2016, they hold a register of 51,980 pharmacists and 23, 121 pharmacy technicians. From these numbers, the GPhC has stated that 3,445 of those registered pharmacists and 215 pharmacy technicians are from states within the European Economic Area. Those figures in percentages mean that 6.6% of all pharmacists and 0.9% pf pharmacy technicians working in the UK are European trained and qualified.

In the light of the referendum vote that the UK leave the EU, European healthcare professionals currently working or wishing to practise in the UK are inevitably concerned about whether they will be allowed to remain in the UK or, if they are currently going through the registration process, whether they will be allowed to continue along their chosen route.

Looking again at the Pharmacy sector, the GPhC

was asked whether it would ensure that the education and training standards of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in the UK or wishing to work in the UK would be harmonised with the requirements imposed in the EU when the UK’s separation from the UK takes place.

After two weeks of speculation, we had hoped for an answer but, as with everything related to Brexit, it seems that we will have to wait and see what happens. The GPhC’s spokesperson stated “It is too early to say what, if any, are the implications of the vote to leave the EU for pharmacy regulation, including education and training requirements.”

The good news for those healthcare professionals already registered with a healthcare regulator, those currently training in the UK and those seeking to register or train in the UK is that nothing looks likely to change for some time as EU law is still in force and will be for the foreseeable future. Article 50 needs to be invoked in order for the UK to begin the process of extricating itself from the UK and, even if this happens, it is likely that EU law will remain in force in the UK for at least two years thereafter. After this time, it remains to be seen how the UK healthcare regulators will deal with this situation but much will depend on any changes that are made to the laws within the UK. At present, however, the same requirements that existed prior to the vote to leave the UK remain in force.

This appears to have been confirmed by the GPhC who stated “Current arrangements, including for EU pharmacy professionals already registered for training in Britain, and for those seeking to register or train in Britain, remain in force. This will continue to be the position unless and until the law is changed.”

So, it appears that with everything Brexit, the advice to be given to all EU healthcare professionals either registered to practise within the UK or hoping to register to practise in the UK is to ‘keep calm and carry on’. The implications of Brexit and how it will affect European healthcare professionals remains to be seen but for now, on thing is clear. Nothing has changed.

If you are an EU registered healthcare professional wishing to register or train in the UK and you are unsure of how to go about it, please contact Charlotte Ellis on 0161 827 9500.