The Government must ‘move quickly’ to exempt doctors from a visa cap that is stopping hospital trusts from recruiting desperately needed staff.
An estimated 1,500 doctors with job offers have been refused visas in recent months – and Commons home affairs select committee chair Yvette Cooper has now written to home secretary Sajid Javid to press him to take action to solve the problem urgently.
The letter says: ‘The committee has recommended the Home Office review the operation of the Tier 2 system. The cap has now been reached for a sixth successive month, exacerbating the problems in the NHS to which the committee drew attention at the start of the year.
‘I am therefore writing… to urge you to move quickly. As a minimum we ask that you immediately remove doctors from the Tier 2 cap altogether.’
The pressure on the Government has come from its own back benches too. Conservative health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston yesterday met Mr Javid to press him to change the system quickly.
Tweeting earlier this week, Dr Wollaston said ‘urgent action’ to scrap restrictions on NHS staff and scientists was required.
It comes after the Government pledged to review the restrictions.
Mr Javid said last week that he planned to take a ‘fresh look’ at the Tier 2 visa cap imposed on doctors from non-EU countries.
His comments follow weeks of pressure from organisations including the BMA, warning that the cap had exacerbated staffing shortages in the health service.
More than 1,500 applications for Tier 2 visas by doctors were rejected between December and March, figures obtained by the Campaign for Science and Engineering revealed – despite hundreds of unfilled posts within the NHS.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul cautiously welcomed the home secretary’s pledge but urged rapid action.
‘It is important that the home secretary now acts swiftly with a practical solution, so that the NHS can recruit the several hundreds of available overseas doctors who can start work imminently to ease pressure in a health service under escalating strain,’ he added.
‘The NHS could not survive without the vital contribution of overseas doctors, and it is vital that the Government puts the needs of patients first by implementing a flexible immigration policy that allows us to employ the doctors needed to serve the health needs of the nation.’