Thousands more foreign medical professionals will be able to work in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) after the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed the government would relax tough immigration rules first imposed by Theresa May.
The Guardian reports that doctors and nurses are to be excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas, meaning there will be no restriction on the numbers who can be employed through the so-called tier 2 visa route. Applications made via the tier 2 route, which has had an annual cap of 20,700 since 2011, have in recent months exceeded the allocation of visas.
The report says the change will also free up hundreds of additional places a month for other highly skilled workers, such as engineers, IT professionals and teachers. Javid said: “I recognise the pressures faced by the NHS and other sectors in recent months. Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK. That is why I have reviewed our skilled worker visa route.
“This is about finding a solution to increased demand and to support our essential national services.”
The tier 2 cap is part of the government’s approach to controlling net migration, which it aims to reduce to the tens of thousands. That target has consistently been missed since it was set in 2010.
The report says the relaxation of immigration rules follows a vociferous campaign by NHS organisations and medical groups. They had argued that doctors and nurses should be exempt from the cap on skilled workers, in order to tackle the deepening workforce crisis in the NHS. Recent official figures show that the NHS in England alone is short of 9,982 doctors. Among those refused tier 2 visas in recent months were GPs, psychiatrists and cancer specialists – for whom there are a significant number of vacancies.
The CEO of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, is quoted in the report as saying: “We are delighted with this solution which will enable our NHS organisations to recruit the doctors they urgently need.”
Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association council, said: “It will be a relief to patients and staff across the NHS that common sense has finally prevailed and the tier 2 visa restrictions on non-EU doctors and nurses are to be lifted. This represents a victory for the BMA, medical bodies and patients who have argued that this obstructive cap was doing real damage to patient services across the country.”The Guardian report