EU doctors make up 9% of the UK medical workforce

Authors: Tom Moberly 

Publication date:  22 Feb 2018

Doctors who qualified in other European countries make up 9% of those on the UK medical register, data released by the GMC show.

The GMC’s report, The State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK: 2017, shows that in some secondary care specialties over a quarter of registered doctors qualified outside the UK and more than one in eight qualified in other European countries.[1] For instance, in ophthalmology, 547 of the 1157 UK registered doctors working in the specialty (25%) qualified in other European countries. In surgery the figure is 19% and across obstetrics and gynaecology, pathology, and radiology it is 14%.

The GMC’s report shows that, in total, 78 611 of the 236 732 doctors on the UK’s medical register (33%) qualified in other countries. Of these, 21 609 (9%) qualified in other European Economic Area countries and 57 002 (24%) qualified outside the EEA.

In November 2017, NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, warned that continuing uncertainty over the recruitment of staff from other countries as the UK prepares to leave the EU was threatening the provision of safe, high quality care in the NHS.[2] The organisation said that domestic “quick fixes” are not an option for solving severe workforce shortages in the NHS, and that any significant reduction in the number of overseas staff in the next few years would have a “serious and damaging impact” on services.

From 2012 to 2017, the number of doctors from overseas registered in the UK fell by 7.4%, GMC data show. Their number fell from 84 896 in 2012 (when they represented 37% of doctors registered in the UK) to 78 611 in 2017 (when they represented 33% of UK registered doctors). Over this period, the number of doctors who qualified in other EEA countries fell by 6.2% from 22 967 to 21 609.

Proportion of UK registered doctors that qualified in other EEA countries

Ophthalmology: 25%

Surgery: 19%

Obstetrics and gynaecology: 14%

Pathology: 14%

Radiology: 14%

Paediatrics: 13%

Medicine: 13%

Anaesthetics and intensive care: 13%

Psychiatry: 12%

Public health: 7%

Emergency medicine: 7%

Source: GMC The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2017 report


  1. General Medical Council. The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2017 report. 2018. [Link] .
  2. Iacobucci G. Uncertain overseas recruitment is threatening care, NHS leaders warn. BMJ  2017;359:j5148. [Link]    [Link] .

Tom Moberly UK editor The BMJ

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