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New post-Brexit visa policy to have ‘huge knock-on effect’ on GPs, says BMA

Stricter immigration requirements could ‘create chaos in the NHS’ and have a ‘huge knock-on effect’ on general practice, the BMA warned today.

This was in response to the home secretary’s speech at the Conservative party conference today, in which he said that people immigrating to the UK will have to meet the requirements of a ‘skills-based’ system, and pass a ‘British values test’ as well as tougher English language demands.

Under the plans, GPs from the EU would have no preferential treatment compared with GPs from anywhere overseas.

The BMA accused home secretary Sajid Javid of ‘putting policy before patients’ and called on the Government to ‘ensure the NHS can recruit and retain doctors and other NHS workers in sufficient numbers’.

This comes after Pulse revealed that over 400 newly qualified GPs were at risk of deportation due to the NHS being unable to sponsor their visas to stay.

In his speech in Birmingham earlier today, Mr Javid thanked the referendum for creating ‘a unique opportunity to reshape our immigration system for the future’.

He then announced his vision, including a ‘skills-based, single system that is opened up to talent from across the world’ and does not ‘discriminate between any one region or country’ but is ‘based on merit’.

He added that the ‘Life in the UK’ test for new citizens is ‘not enough’ and that he will bring in a ‘British values test’ and ‘strengthen the English language requirements for all new citizens’.

The home secretary continued: ‘What people want – and they will get – is control of our own system. With a lower, and sustainable level of net migration. And above all, that has to mean one thing: an end to freedom of movement.’

But Mr Javid also told EU citizens ‘who have already made the UK their home’ that regardless of the final deal, ‘you can stay’.

In response to the speech, the BMA accused the home secretary of ‘putting policy before patients’.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Today’s announcement has the potential to create chaos in the NHS.

‘Freedom of movement has enabled thousands of EU nationals to work in health and social care organisations across the UK, helping NHS trusts, boards and providers ensure gaps in the medical workforce are filled quickly by qualified workers with the appropriate level of training and education.’

He explained that minimum salary thresholds will impact social care workers, porters, cleaners and caterers, and could cause ‘huge knock-on effects’ to hospitals, GP practices and the community.

And added: ‘The home secretary is putting policy before patients with this announcement. Our immigration system needs to work for the health and care sector as a whole, and ensure the NHS can recruit and retain doctors and other NHS workers in sufficient numbers.’

Earlier this year the BMA backed a second Brexit referendum. It argued that Brexit has had a ‘huge impact on the morale of EU NHS staff working here’, and that ‘almost half’ are ‘considering leaving the UK’ because of the referendum.