THE chair of the trade union for doctors in Scotland has hit out at the “appalling” treatment of European staff as Brexit nears.

In a strongly worded statement, leaders at the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, warned “deep distrust” created by the UK Government could rob the country’s health boards of critical staff.

Dr Lewis Morrison said that would be a “disaster” for patients.

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The comments come as a new survey carried out by the professional body reveals that almost one third of doctors hailing from the European Economic Area (EEA) may quit the UK as a result of Brexit.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to citizens born in EEA countries.

However, with no power over immigration, the fate of this group rests in the hands of Westminster.

More than 1500 EEA-trained medics from across the UK responded to the BMA survey.

It found 80 per cent of respondents are “unconvinced by the promises that have been made that their rights will be protected in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

Meanwhile, 40% were unaware of the settled status scheme initiated by the UK Government and 35% are “considering moving abroad”.

The survey included 140 doctors working in Scotland, with the results broadly the same amongst this group.

The percentage of those thinking about leaving was lower at 30%.

The National:

However, this could still cost the country hundreds of trained and experienced doctors.

Morrison said: “As Brexit creeps ever closer, it is appalling that so many of our colleagues are living with such uncertainty over what their future will be.

“The results of this survey clearly show a deep distrust in the promises that have been made to date.”

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The settled status, which is set to open fully by the spring, will allow UK residents from the European Union to apply for permission to live here after December 2020.

Irish citizens and those with indefinite leave to remain do not have to apply.

But while this scheme is supposed to help provide certainty and security for EU nationals, the position for citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland remain unclear.

The Home Office says their rights are “still being negotiated”.

The BMA survey was carried out between the end of September and the beginning of November – before Theresa May’s government agreed a Brexit deal with the EU.

But with a number of ministers having quit the Government after a crunch Cabinet meeting – including Dominic Raab, the second person to resign from the post of Brexit Secretary – it is by no means certain the Prime Minister will now be able to get the agreement approved by Parliament.

Morrison continued: “We should be absolutely clear that losing the contribution to our NHS of doctors from elsewhere in Europe would be a disaster for our health service.

“These are our friends and our colleagues and with just a handful of months to go, too many of them do not know what their future will be after Brexit.

“A clear and unequivocal guarantee, setting out in detail how the rights of EEA nationals will be protected in the event of a no-deal Brexit is urgently required.”

Morrison went on: “The Scottish Government has been clear that it wants to protect the rights of European NHS staff and this is welcome and appreciated by many, but it is ultimately the Westminster government that must act before further damage is done.”