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Home Office confirms plans to lift doctor immigration cap

The Home Office has confirmed reports that it will lift the cap on the number of international doctors granted visas to work in the UK.

The new plans mean there will be no restriction on the number of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the ‘tier 2’ visa route.

GP leaders have said lifting the cap is a 'very positive step in addressing the workforce pressures facing general practice in the shorter term'.

This comes after the home secretary said last week that he would take a ‘fresh look’ at the visa rules that cap the number of overseas doctors allowed to work in the NHS.

Under the ‘tier 2’ scheme, only 20,700 skilled workers from outside the EU are allowed to work in the UK, across an array of professions, preventing hundreds of qualified doctors from working in the NHS.

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 Home Office added that Mr Javid is expected to lay changes to the tier 2 visa cap before Parliament tomorrow.

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% and giving over a million NHS employees a well-deserved pay rise.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the announcement is ‘a fantastic and much-needed victory for common sense and patient care’.

She said: ‘We are currently desperately short of GPs in the UK. Our workload is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity, yet despite the Government’s pledge for 5,000 more family doctors by 2020, the number of GPs working in the NHS in England is actually falling.’

She added: ‘Regardless of the cap on Tier 2 visas, there remain significant barriers for GPs to employ doctors from overseas. 

‘We urge the home secretary to address these in his announcement tomorrow: to cut the arduous red tape and significant costs standing in the way of GP practices obtaining the necessary licence to do this; and to use his powers to add GPs to the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list.

'Recruiting GPs from overseas will not solve the workforce crisis and we are committed to training more GPs in the UK - but it takes at least 10 years to train a GP, and lifting the cap on Tier 2 visas is a very positive step in addressing the workforce pressures facing general practice in the shorter term.'

The latest figures show that 1,000 GPs have left the profession since September 2015 - when health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would increase the number of FTE GPs in England by 5,000.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It will be a relief to patients and staff across the NHS that common sense has finally prevailed and the Tier-2 visa restrictions on non-EU doctors and nurses are to be lifted.

He added: ‘These regulations have prevented thousands of non-EU doctors being allowed to work in the UK to fill empty posts that the health service is unable to fill.

‘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.’

GP leaders have previously warned that the Prime Minister’s refusal to relax visa rules for skilled doctors from overseas was ‘deeply concerning’ and would affect patient safety.

Last year, NHS England increased its target for its overseas recruitment programme from 500 to 2,000 GPs to offset retirement.

However, Pulse revealed that just 85 GPs from abroad were in post as of the end of March.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Sadly, the BMA chair is again misinformed.
    The immigration cap was not what was preventing doctors from outside the EEA working in Britain. The Immigration cap only stopped them COMING to britain.
    They are prevented from WORKING here by our membership of the EU!- and, of course, the abysmal working conditions here!
    This immigration announcement will NOT solve the GP shortage.

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  • As usual it appears to be too little too late and anyway who’s really going to want to work in a clearly failing system? Certainly not in the long term if they’ve got any sense.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Thank God. Perhaps we could move towards the complete eradication of U.K. trained Drs in medicine. We could then disband the Royal Colleges (what’s the point, they wouldn’t be training anybody ) and continue the downward pressure on pay and working conditions. I’m sure the BMA are delighted. What a Union. What a country.

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  • Why were politicians not able to see this problem when everyone in the profession was telling them. I think it was around 2007 when MTAS hit and the via rules were tightened. This was apparent to everyone, apart from politicians.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Mean while, following the success of Donald Trump’s visit to N.Korea, the leader of UNITE construction union calls on the government to relax immigration rules to allow cheap construction labour from North Korea to ease the crisis in labour provision for the hard pressed building industry.

    ‘Hard working brick layers up and down the country are struggling to lay enough bricks, under intolerable working conditions, the constant threat of prosecution, with low pay and low morale, we need cheap labour from N Korea to work along side them, these guys will work for even less, and tolerate even worse conditions! What’s not to like? Someone’s got to build those buildings and our members just aren’t up to the job. I call on the government to open negatioatons with N Korea as soon as possible so the U.K. construction industry can continue to flourish.’

    The leader of the BMA sent his support and called on other unions to support the rights of foreign nationals to come to the UK to help sustain low pay and awful working conditions for hard working union members up and down the U.K.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Wasn't it the late Robin Cook who had the idea of an "ethical foreign policy"?

    I struggle to see the ethics in stealing doctors from poor countries to help a rich one like ours.

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  • Utter fool. I think you missed something. The RoyalColleges haven’t been responsible for education for some time. It’s the GMC now. This was the start of the end of the profession as a profession rather than a job

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  • AlanAlmond

    The cavalry isn’t coming 12:54pm
    ..what can I say, I’m an utter fool

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  • Pulse Power(less) 50

    Looks like GMC will start raking in money from plab tests again

    I know its brexit but why not still agree to european doctors

    Anyway anyone coming across we have this lovely thing called appraisal ... you're seriously going to love it ... its its ...just the best..

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  • Pulse Power(less) 50

    oh yes and medical indemnity fees

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