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Physiotherapy post-Brexit

Theresa May has begun her Brexit negotiations with an announcement on residency rights.

June 2017: May's offer to European nationals

File 175026The UK government has apparently offered European nationals who have lived in the UK for more than five years permanent residency post-Brexit.

It has also indicated that those EEA citizens who have spent less than five years in the UK will be able to earn the right to residency after the UK leaves the European Union.

The offer is conditional on the EU guaranteeing similar rights for British citizens living in Europe.

The CSP believes that all European physiotherapists, student and support staff in the UK should be able to live and work in the UK after Brexit. We estimate that there is a shortage of around 4000 physios across the country. The loss of European colleagues would hit patient care. The CSP also has British members working in Europe who are concerned about their futures.

Commenting on the latest development CSP strategy director Rob Yeldham said:

'This is a move in the right direction, but the government should go further. All EEA citizens legally in the UK at the point of Brexit should continue to have the same rights to live, work and learn in the UK as they have now. The five year requirement is a barrier we don't need.

'We also need to see a clear signal from the EU that the rights of British citizens in Europe will continue after we leave the European Union.'

The CSP is lobbying the UK Government on the rights of overseas physiotherapists. As part of both the TUC and Cavendish Coalition it is working with organisations representing other professions and healthcare employers to ensure European physiotherapy professionals can continue to play a critical role in UK Healthcare.

January 2017: May's 12 Brexit objectives

Several of Theresa May's 12 goals reflect areas where the CSP has concerns for patients and members:

Resident rights
The prime minister aims to maintain the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British nationals in the EU, on a reciprocal basis. Guaranteeing these rights is important for EU physiotherapists and support workers across the UK and for British physiotherapists working in Europe. It is unclear, however, if this commitment includes continued access to health care on a reciprocal basis for all residents.

Rights at work
The government has committed to use UK regulations to ensure that workers’ rights are maintained. This is welcome, but we want to see the detailed proposals for regulations to ensure that they are indeed equivalent to EU protection.

Research
A pledge to collaborate with Europe on major science, research and technology initiatives is welcome. It is less clear whether this will mean UK-based physiotherapy researchers will be able to access pan-European funding.

Common Travel Area
Teresa May also committed to maintaining unrestricted movement between the UK and Ireland. This is important for our members in Northern Ireland. Some work across the border and some patients from the Republic use services in Northern Ireland.

Whilst the focus on these areas is welcome, all are subject to negotiation with the EU and/or further UK legislation. It is therefore too early to say whether the outcomes will be what physiotherapists and their patients need.

CSP concerns

There were some clear gaps in the goals which are of concern:

  • NHS funding – a key campaign focus by the leave campaign was releasing funding for the NHS. There was no mention of funding for the NHS.
  • Students – it is unclear whether student mobility is on the government’s agenda. Those already studying abroad may be covered by the proposed reciprocal rights for residents,. However, uncertainty remains over the future of student exchanges and the ability of EU students to study physiotherapy in the UK.

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