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Boris Johnson pledges fast-track visas for key NHS workers

New system will accelerate cut-price visas for doctors and nurses

NHS England

The Conservatives will introduce a system of accelerated, cut-price visas for doctors, nurses and other key NHS workers if they win the election in December.

The new visa would cost £464 rather than the £928 proposed under plans for a new points-based immigration system modelled on the Australian system that the government wants to introduce after Brexit and the end of free movement of workers from the EU.

Would-be NHS workers would get more points allocated, be guaranteed to get a decision within two weeks, and there would be no cap on numbers, according to ministers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said this morning that the visa would allow the UK to “attract the best skilled talent from around the world into our NHS”. A similar plan has been introduced for experts in science, engineering and technology disciplines, with the new system due to be in place in 2021.

The move has already been attacked for doing little to overturn the huge staffing crisis already affecting the NHS, with a current shortfall of around 100,000 – including 40,000 nursing positions.

At the moment there are no fees at all, pointed out various opposition MPs including Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine, so the introduction of even a discounted fee could be a further brake on recruitment of much-needed staff from overseas.

The plan doesn’t remove a £1,000 immigration skills charge that employers would have to pay for every foreign worker they hire under the proposed system.

It also does little to tackle shortages in lower-paid hospital workers who are also in short supply in the NHS, according to critics. Previously, the government said it intended to introduce a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas, but there are suggestions it may backtrack on the idea.

Earlier this year, the Health Foundation said that declines in GP, nurse and health visitor numbers was putting the NHS Long Term Plan at risk and had been exacerbated by uncertainties about Brexit, while the Kings Fund said last year staff shortages could reach 250,000 by 2030 if drastic measures aren’t taken to resolve the crisis.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “From its inception the NHS has recruited globally. This new visa will make it easier for us to hire the finest doctors and nurses from other nations to come and work in the NHS – so that patients can receive the best possible care.”

However, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused the Conservatives of using “dog whistle anti-migrant rhetoric but are forced to accept we need migrant workers for key sectors, not just the NHS, but many more besides”.

According to the BBC, about 13% of the NHS workforce comes from outside the UK, of which 6% are from the EU. Meanwhile, 28% of doctors come from outside the UK and 9.5% are from the EU.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th November 2019

From: Healthcare

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