The Home Office has finally agreed to exclude doctors and nurses from the visa cap which prevented thousands taking up jobs in the UK, following a sustained campaign by the BMA.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said he recognised the pressure faced by the NHS and had lifted the cap to help tackle ‘increased demand and to support our national services’.
‘Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK.’
The BMA has led the fight to end the visa restriction in a campaign, alongside NHS Employers and the medical royal colleges.
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 said it was a relief to patients and staff that ‘common sense had finally prevailed’.
‘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 cap had stopped thousands of non-EU doctor from filling empty posts in the UK which health services had been unable to fill, he added.
‘The NHS has always relied on these highly skilled, experienced overseas doctors to provide frontline care to patients, and they are needed more than ever at a time when the NHS is under mounting pressure from rising demand, stagnating funding and staff shortages.’
The Tier 2 cap is part of the Government’s approach to curbing immigration. It restricts the number of applications which can be approved each month and has been hit every month since December.
Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said the review of the cap would ‘build on steps we have already taken to make sure the NHS has the staff it needs for the future’.