From today, thousands more overseas doctors and nurses will be able to work in the NHS following the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid’s, announcement that they would be excluded from the government’s standard cap on visas for skilled workers.
Previously, visas given to foreign doctors and nurses were counted towards the overall cap on Tier 2 (General) visas (reserved for skilled workers), set at 20,700 per year. The new rules change means that visas for these types of healthcare workers will no longer be included in the cap and there will be no limit on visas for doctors and nurses from abroad seeking to work in the NHS.
By removing doctors and nurses from the annual Tier 2 visa limit, the Home Office will also potentially free up hundreds of new spaces each year for other types of skilled professionals, such as IT workers, teachers and scientists.
Explaining the Home Office’s decision, 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.”
NHS organisations and medical groups have long campaigned for a change to immigration rules for medical professionals in response to a growing shortfall of doctors and nurses to fill vacant positions.
Recent figures show that the NHS in England is short of 9,982 doctors and more than 34,000 nurses, leading to fears that the NHS will be increasingly unable to cope with patient demand.
Chair of the British Medical Association council 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. This represents a victory for the BMA, medical bodies and patients who have argued that this obstructive cap was doing real damage to patient services across the country.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, also responded positively to the news, saying: “We are delighted with this solution which will enable our NHS organisations to recruit the doctors they urgently need.”
The relaxation of visa rules for skilled NHS workers was preceded earlier this week by the announcement of a new visa route for people looking to start a business in the UK.
The new ‘start-up visa’, announced during London Tech Week, is intended to widen the pool of talented entrepreneurs eligible for a UK visa and make the application process faster and smoother. Applications for the new visa route are due to start being accepted from Spring 2019, with further details, including the number of visas available through this route yet to be announced.
This new visa will replace a previous version that was only open to graduates, recognising that successful business founders often come from a more diverse background, not necessarily including formal qualifications. It will, however, require entrepreneurs to have an endorsement from a university or approved business sponsor, including recognised start-up accelerators.
The Home Secretary said: “The UK can be proud that we are a leading nation when it comes to tech and innovation, but we want to do more to attract businesses to the UK and our migration system plays a key part in that.
“That’s why I am pleased to announce a new visa for people wanting to start a business in the UK. This will help to ensure we continue to attract the best global talent and maintain the UK’s position as a world-leading destination for innovation and entrepreneurs.”