GP leaders have warned that the Prime Minister’s refusal to relax visa rules for skilled overseas doctors is ‘deeply concerning’ and will affect patient safety.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said in a letter to newly appointed home secretary Sajid Javid asking for the cap on Tier 2 visas to be removed and for shortage occupation roles to be excluded from the allocation process.
The warning comes after reports emerged that Prime Minister Theresa may had ignored requests from cabinet colleagues to relax visa rules to allow hundreds of skilled doctors from overseas to work in NHS hospitals, despite the Tier 2 visa cap being reached for an unprecedented fifth month in a row.
NHS Employers, twelve royal colleges, professional bodies and trade unions also signed the letter which highlighted the ongoing need in the NHS to attract clinical staff from outside the UK.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Given that the Government has recognised the importance of a long-term solution to address the current workforce crisis in the NHS, the suggestion that the Prime Minister has blocked requests that would enable overseas doctors to practice in the NHS is deeply concerning.
‘At a time when the NHS is under enormous strain and struggling to fill positions, the current visa restrictions and arbitrary caps for non-EU workers entering the UK are inexplicable and threatening patient care and safety.
He added: ‘Delivering a more flexible immigration system which enables NHS recruitment is an easy win for the government and will have both long-term and immediate benefits for future prosperity of the NHS.’
Last year, NHS England increased its target for its overseas recruitment programme from 500 to 2,000 GPs to offset retirement. The increased target followed NHS England launching a £30m contract tender for companies to bid to help recruit GPs from the EU.
Board papers seen by Pulse last month revealed 130 GPs had been recruited by 31 March.
It comes as the Home Office agreed to revisit the decision to pursue the deportation of trainee GP Luke Anthony Ong just months before he qualified as a GP.