The Home Office has said that foreign medics should be excluded from the government’s cap on skilled migration.
NHS groups welcomed the decision to relax immigration rules to allow more doctors and nurses from outside the EU into the UK to work, claiming it would be a “huge relief”.
The current cap for non-EU skilled workers is set at £20,700 a year, which makes it hard to fill vacancies in the NHS.
According to Global Future, 12.5% of NHS England’s staff are from overseas. That number rises to 45% in certain specialities, such as paediatric cardiologists and neurosurgeons.
The Tier 2 Visa’s bring skilled workers to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, but since 2011 there has been a cap on the number that can be issued.
NHS England had 35,000 nurse vacancies and nearly 10,000 doctor posts unfilled in February, according to an NHS report. Recently the cap has been exceeded for several months in arrow, due to demand for NHS workers, which make up 40% of all Tier 2 places.
The Financial Times reported that 2,360 visa applications by doctors from outside the EEA area were refused in a five-month period, which is apparently a result of the cap.
Home Secretary Sajid 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.”
Alp Mehmet of pressure group Migration Watch, said: “What we must not forget to do is train our own medical staff,” he said, adding that the UK should not raid other countries that may need doctors and nurses more than the UK does.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Manchester, said that training places for doctors, nurses and midwives were up by 25%.
Saffron Cordery of trade body NHS providers, said that the proposed new government policy is “going to be a huge relief for trusts up and down the country who have been really struggling to fill their doctors and nurses vacancies.”
The current annual cap on these visas has also led to over 1000 engineers and IT specialists and teachers being denied visas. The proposed change will initially only apply to doctors and nurses, however the government said that this will free up hundreds of visa’s for workers within these other industries.