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Non-EU overseas nurses to be exempt from skilled migration cap

  • 4 Comments

More nurses and doctors from outside the European Union will be able to work in the NHS, after a government decision to exclude them from the cap on skilled workers.

There will be no restriction on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the tier 2 visa route under new immigration rules to be laid before parliament tomorrow.

”Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK”

Sajid Javid

The tier 2 visa route, which applies to non-EU workers, has had an annual cap of 20,700 since 2011 when Theresa May was home secretary.

Before December 2017, the cap, which was set on the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), had only been reached on one occasion, the Home Office said.

But in recent months the number of applications has exceeded the monthly allocation of available places with the demand largely driven by the NHS, which accounts for around 40% of all tier 2 places.

At the end of March there were over 35,000 nursing vacancies in England’s NHS, according to a report by regulator NHS Improvement.

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.”

“Today the government has woken up to the vital contribution international nurses make”

Stephanie Aiken

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said overseas staff had been a key part of the NHS since its creation:

“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,” he said.

Mr Hunt said the new visa approach would go hand in hand with long-term measures to increase the supply of domestic doctors, including increasing the number of training places.

He added: “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% and giving over a million NHS employees a well-deserved pay rise.”

Stephanie Aiken, deputy director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, welcomed the change. “Today the government has woken up to the vital contribution international nurses make to our health and social care sector,” she said.

“The UK has long depended on professionals from around the world to plug staff shortages at home,” she said. “Patient demand is rising and we will continue to rely on this important source of expertise.”

“The lifting of the cap for doctors and nurses will ease the immediate problems, and that is welcome”

Phillippa Hentsch

But Ms Aiken said a more comprehensive approach to workforce planning was needed. “This is only one piece of the puzzle, staffing shortages are leaving patient care increasingly unsafe,” she said.

“The government must develop a comprehensive and costed workforce plan which grows the workforce in line with population health and care needs, including incentivising more UK nationals into the profession,” she said.

The government’s change of tack was a “huge relief” for trusts, said Phillippa Hentsch, head of analysis at NHS Providers.

“Recruitment problems caused by the cap have resulted in rota gaps, often filled by paying premium locum rates,” she said. “That is not good for continuity of care for patients, or for trusts’ finances.

“The lifting of the cap for doctors and nurses will ease the immediate problems, and that is welcome, but it is just a first step in addressing the wider workforce challenges we face,” she said.

Royal College of Nursing

Fears raised over deep cuts to CPD funding for nursing staff

Stephanie Aiken

In the longer-term, training needed to be expanded and the draft workforce strategy published by Health Education England was a “constructive” start to that process.

“But the plans will take time to deliver, so the NHS needs to be supported to recruit from overseas for the foreseeable future,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party called it a “welcome U-Turn” by the government. “Labour has consistently questioned the logic of turning away qualified medical professionals from an NHS with thousands of vacancies,” said Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary.

But pressure group Migration Watch rejected the visa change. It said that there were three to four applicants for every advertised vacancy for doctors and nurses in NHS England.

“There are huge numbers of capable people here who are keen for a career in healthcare,” said Alp Mehmet, the group’s vice chair. “Let’s invest more in them rather than rely on recruiting doctors and nurses from countries whose needs far outweigh our own.” 

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • While this is a very welcome development for a short term, focus should be on training people within and can't agree more to Alp that that “There are huge numbers of capable people here who are keen for a career in healthcare,” ... “Let’s invest more in them rather than rely on recruiting doctors and nurses from countries whose needs far outweigh our own.” In the country where I originally came from there is one lung cancer specialist for 2 of the 3 regions, that is more than 10 Million people of the national population depending on him. It is concerning

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  • Rather than this they should reinstate the bursary, stop wasting money on the associate nurse and give more training to Healthcare assistants

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  • Does this also mean that the IELTS will adjusted as not to cause such a high failure rate from overseas nurses that do communicate in good English. Example would mean an overall score of 7.0 rather than 7.0 for each task would be a much fairer way to go. IELTS people recommend overall score of 7.0 but the NMC makes it more difficult by placing a higher burden on overseas nurses while asking 7.0 for each task. The NMC should be helping not hindering the shortage. How many of them would score 7.0 for each task
    (Not Many).

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  • 20billion extra find that hard to believe. In England average hospital Debt =20 million that will eat up over 3billion. Pay increases with take more cost of overseas recruitment all eating away at this money. Tax increases will also be eating away the extra 20 Billion. So little for patients. I know that one hospital the beds and patient trolley’s are over 30 years old most are rusty and difficult to use, Batteries on beds never replaced and much more.

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