With the UK’s departure from the European Union only weeks away, what does Brexit mean for healthcare regulation in the UK?

The UK’s exit from the European Union will bring wholesale legislative change including for legislation governing how healthcare professionals from the European Economic Area (EEA) and the continent will be able to practice in the UK from the 1st of January.

All of the UK’s healthcare regulatory bodies have issued guidance for their own registrants. Included at the end of this article is information from each of the UK’s healthcare regulatory bodies on their Brexit preparation and guidance.

Below however is a general overview of Brexit implications for healthcare professionals from the EU and the continent from 1 January 2021. A quick note however, this is a general overview. Healthcare professionals must consult their own regulatory body’s guidance and advice to ensure they are fully appraised of the requirements with regards to their fitness to practise.

“Standstill approach”

As the UK Government is still in the process of negotiating the UK’s future relationship with the EU, it has introduced legislation (also known as the ‘standstill approach’) that aims to reduce any disruption that the end of the transition period may have, making sure that applicants who hold non-UK qualifications are treated equally and fairly.


The registration of healthcare professionals from the EEA and the continent who are registered (or submitted their application) to practice before 1 January 2021 is unlikely to be affected by Brexit. The only exception might be registrations that are temporary in nature such as temporary or occasional registrations.

Under the terms of the Government’s standstill approach, if you hold a qualification gained in an EU, EEA or EFTA country and you want to join a register from 1 January 2021, you’ll need to follow the same application process as those trained outside the EU.


Brexit does mean that, on the whole, non-UK qualifications will be affected. For example, nationals from the EEA will no longer benefit from automatic recognition of professional qualifications.

Swiss nationals

The UK Government has reached an agreement with Switzerland for a new relationship from 1 January 2021. This means that if you’re a Swiss national, or a dependent or spouse with acquired rights in Switzerland, and you hold a qualification that would previously have been automatically recognised by EU law, you will still be able to use this qualification to apply for registration with us as long as you started training before 31 December 2020.

On 26 November 2020, the Government published guidance for EEA-qualified and Swiss health and care professionals practising in the UK after 1 January 2021.

Applying for settled status in the UK

If you’re an EU, EFTA or Swiss citizen, and if you’ve not done so already, you and your family may need to apply for UK immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme is free of charge and the deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

Further advice


Stephen McCaffrey

I am a HCPC Defence Barrister who has represented a large number of health and care professionals before the HCPC and other regulatory bodies in either first instance proceedings or appeals. 

I can help with all matters relating to HCPC Fitness to Practise referrals issues including:

  • Applications for Registration
  • Registration Appeals
  • International Registration
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  • Internal Disciplinary and Grievance
  • HCPC Referrals
  • Fitness to Practice Hearings
  • Conduct and Competence Hearings
  • Health Committee Hearings
  • Interim Orders Hearings
  • Preparation for hearings
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