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Changes to visas for foreign doctors and overseas medics

The Immigration Rules around visas for foreign medics swings between the needs to maintain an immigration as per government policy and the very real need the NHS has to be able to find enough staff.

In what can only be described as a victory both for common sense, UK patients and overseas doctors, a forthcoming relaxation of the rules was announced today.

Hundreds and potentially thousands of foreign medics will be able to come and work in the United Kingdom for National Health Service trusts. It was said that behind the scenes groups representing the NHS and those representing medics lobbied the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt,  and the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid hard, which in turn led them to push the Prime Minister to make this change.

How does the immigration rule change work for overseas doctors?

The anticipated rule works simply but has profound effects. The position is that doctors / medics will find their application being considered on their own merits as before,  but once they are approved, the cap imposed on foreign workers across all sectors will not apply to them.

This cap, as it stands currently, led to just under 2,400 doctors from being refused visas to work in the UK for the NHS. It is crucial to note that these were not speculative doctors simply making UK visa applications and then hoping to find work in the National Health Service, rather these were candidates who had applied for open positions in the NHS, were interviewed and offered work by the NHS, and whom otherwise qualified under the immigration rules and would have been permitted to commence work, had it not been for the cap.

It should also be noted that these figures exclude those doctors and medics who are from EEA European nations, these individuals, until Brexit is resolved, currently have freedom of movement to come and work in the UK if they are doctors or otherwise.

To give an impression of the significance of the change, currently the Home Office caps qualified foreign workers, including doctors to 20,700 a year.

Now that there will now be a separate system, and or removal of the cap, the NHS will be able to fill positions in General Practice (GP) surgeries and NHS hospitals, based upon need, not upon politically driven figures.

How much staff shortage is there in the NHS and how could foreign doctors help?

Government statistics make clear the extent of the problem, the system is in the region of 10,000 medics shy of their current needs. These needs of course are driven by patient demand and NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) priorities.

Amongst the greatest shortage of doctors are:

• GP’s
• Radiologists
• Those with Ultra Sounds experience
• Psychiatrists
• Oncologists

How does the immigration cap work?

GP Surgery’s and Hospitals have wanted to hire doctors and medics they had selected and marked as both highly skilled and necessary, unfortunately as the cap limits the amount of person who can obtain the visa on a monthly basis, and  for 7 out of the last 12 months, the cap was reached, so they were unable to do so.

Interestingly, there is also a similar shortage of nurses,  and as it stands, the number of nurses being refused remains high as they too are subject to the cap.

This may well be the next area of battle for the government and the NHS.

Westkin Associates


5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom
0207 118 4546

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