NHS doctors and nurses will be excluded from restrictions to the number of visas granted to skilled non-EU migrant workers under plans announced today.
As part of a long-term government plan for the NHS, 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 tier 2 visa route.
The Tier 2 cap forms part of the government’s approach to controlling net migration. It relates to certificates of sponsorship which are applied for by UK employers looking to bring in non-EU skilled workers.
According to the Financial Times, 2,630 visa applications from doctors outside the European Economic Area (EEA) were refused in a five-month period, despite crippling staff shortages across the NHS. Those shortages were highlighted by an NHS improvement report, showing NHS England had 35,000 nurse vacancies and nearly 10,000 doctor posts unfilled in February.
As well as providing a boost to the NHS, it will also free up hundreds of additional places a month within the cap for other highly skilled occupations, such as engineers, IT professionals and teachers, with an estimated 40% of all Tier 2 places being taken by NHS staff.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, told the BBC that the relaxation would be a “huge relief for trusts up and down the country who have been really struggling to fill their doctors and nurses vacancies”.
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. This is about finding a solution to increased demand and to support our essential national services.”
The exclusion of doctors and nurses from the cap comes as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care puts in place long-term measures to increase the supply of domestic doctors – including increasing the number of training places.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
“Overseas staff have been a vital part of our NHS since its creation 70 years ago. Today’s news sends a clear message to nurses and doctors from around the world that the NHS welcomes and values their skills and dedication. It’s fantastic that patients will now benefit from the care of thousands more talented staff.
This builds on steps we have already taken to make sure the NHS has the staff it needs for the future – boosting training places for home-grown doctors and nurses by 25 per cent and giving over a million NHS employees a well-deserved pay rise.”
The Tier 2 cap forms part of the government’s approach to controlling net migration. Before December 2017, the cap, which was set on the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), had only been reached on one occasion. However, it has been reached every month since last December.