Home Forums Other Specialities General Topics NHS Staffing Crisis due to Visa Rules

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    The Times of London Newspaper reports that Theresa May is facing a backbench revolt over the availability of foreign workers for the NHS.

    Dozens of Conservative MPs have signed a letter written by Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, to the prime minister begging for a relaxation of immigration rules to address the NHS staffing shortage.

    If a British employer wants to hire a skilled worker from outside the EU on a tier-two visa, it must prove that the position could not be filled by anyone already in the country. The government has also capped such visas at 20,700 a year in a bid to reduce annual net migration to tens of thousands. Applications have regularly exceeded the monthly cap this year.

    One government source suggested yesterday that the approach to the issue inside government, including inside No 10, was changing.

    The Times has obtained Ms Allen’s letter, which is supported by more than enough Tory MPs to defeat the government. She wrote: “Our current tier-two policy is forcing the country to make a binary choice between professionals needed to grow the economy and professionals needed to staff our health system. Without urgent intervention, we believe our NHS is heading towards a perfect storm.”

    The letter says that between December 2017 and March 2018, 1,518 doctors were refused the certificate of sponsorship that is needed for a tier-two visa. The letter suggests exempting NHS professionals from the tier-two process. “We are confident this would enjoy full public support,” it says.

    The letter was intended to be private and there are no plans to publish the names of the other signatories. It was copied to Sajid Javid, the home secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary. The pair are expected to work together on the issue soon.

    A few weeks ago it was revealed that Amber Rudd, when she was home secretary, had been calling for doctors to be excluded from the tier-two rules. No 10 was reported to have rejected the suggestion and instead offered to give doctors higher priority in the queue. Mr Hunt has also been lobbying on the issue but has been rebuffed.

    The British Medical Journal opened a petition on the issue this week which had gathered 1,544 signatures yesterday. It said hundreds of NHS posts remained unfilled, which threatened the care of patients. Fiona Godlee, editorin-chief, said: “There’s a sort of madness in the current restrictions. The UK has always relied on and welcomed doctors from overseas. Now, just when we most need them, we are putting roadblocks in their way.”

    A Home Office spokesman said: “The government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK and to our health service. However, it is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas. We estimate that around a third of all tier-two places go to the NHS.”

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