The Home Office is expected to announce the relaxation of immigration laws to allow for more foreign doctors and nurses to work in the UK.
Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that making changes to the scheme was ‘absolutely the right decision.’
‘This is going to be a huge relief for trusts up and down the country who have been really struggling to fill their doctors and nurses vacancies’
However, while the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have said that the changes would be ‘fantastic and much-needed’, they also warned that it is not a solution to the current staff shortage crisis.
‘Regardless of the cap on Tier 2 visas, there remain significant barriers for GPs to employ doctors from overseas,’ said Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP.
‘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.’
In February, NHS England had 35,000 nurse vacancies and approximately 10,000 doctor vacancies and Think tank, Global Future, has reported that 12.5% of NHS England employees are from overseas.
The cap, introduced in May 2011, on so-called Tier 2 visas allows for 20,7000 visas a year, but the British Medical Journal reported 2 weeks ago that between December and March more than 1,500 applications from doctors with job offers were denied visas because of the cap.
'The Government has woken up to the vital contribution international nurses make to our health and social care sector. The UK has long depended on professionals from around the world to plug staff shortages at home. Patient demand is rising and we will continue to rely on this important source of expertise,' said Stephanie Aiken, Royal College of Nursing deputy director of nursing.
'However, this is only one piece of the puzzle, staffing shortages are leaving patient care increasingly unsafe. The Government must develop a comprehensive and costed workforce plan which grows the workforce in line with population health and care needs, including incentivising more UK nationals into the profession.'