A piece in today’s Times. Of course if medical schools hadn’t been preferencing women over men for medical school admissions for decades – since at least the 1970s, according to Dr Vernon Coleman, the first “television doctors”, bestselling author – there would be no need to import doctors from overseas, often from poor countries which can ill afford to lose them.
Doctors’ leaders have welcomed news of an easing of the restrictions on foreign doctors and nurses coming to work in the NHS.
Tomorrow Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is expected to announce “time limited” reforms to exclude medical professionals from the “tier 2” visa cap, to allow the NHS to bring in non-EU staff to fill rota gaps.
It will come along with wider changes to allow thousands more highly skilled migrants to come to Britain under the tier 2 system, in a concession from Theresa May.
Businesses and employers will be able to recruit each year an extra 8,000 skilled migrants, including IT experts, engineers and teachers, The Daily Telegraphreported, effectively increasing the cap by 40 per cent.
NHS bosses had argued that a solution was “urgently needed”, with figures released under freedom of information legislation showing that more than 2,000 applications to sponsor doctors from outside the EU were turned down between December 2017 and April this year.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman, said: “It will be welcome relief to doctors and patients, who have witnessed first-hand the damage that this policy has caused. Removing doctors and nurses from the tier 2 cap would represent a huge victory for common sense.”
The BMA, alongside medical Royal Colleges and NHS Employers, wrote to Mr Javid during his first week as home secretary asking him to make the issue a priority.
Dr Nagpaul added: “Overseas doctors make an invaluable contribution to our health service, and at a time when there are thousands of unfilled vacancies within the NHS, it is absurd that the government should stop experienced and talented healthcare professionals coming to work here and provide much-needed care for patients.
“We await a full announcement from the home secretary tomorrow and will be scrutinizing the details very carefully.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “While we await the details of the home secretary’s expected announcement, lifting the cap of tier 2 visas for doctors and nurses wanting to work in the NHS would be a fantastic and much-needed victory for common sense and patient care.”
She said that the UK was “desperately short of GPs”, with an escalating workload “both in terms of volume and complexity”.
She added: “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 ten 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.”
This comes after Mrs May resisted numerous calls to relax the system. The prime minister blocked efforts by Amber Rudd, the previous home secretary, to reform the tier 2 system. Ms Rudd had pushed for medical staff to be exempt from quotas to create space for other professions. Mrs May is still refusing to abandon her target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.
Mr Javid will also announce the first review in five years of the professions that qualify for visas in a move that could result in GPs, teachers and other skilled migrants being given the right to come to Britain under tier 2 visas.
It emerged on Tuesday that doctors, teachers and IT workers had been hardest hit by the cap on tier 2 skilled visas since the end of last year.
Figures released under freedom of information legislation to the law firm Eversheds Sutherland disclose that about 10,000 applications made by employers to sponsor a skilled worker from outside the EU, from a total of 18,517 applications, were refused between in the five months to April this year.
The figures show that 2,360 applications to sponsor a doctor were turned down in the same period, along with more than 500 for engineers. A total of 1,946 applications from IT professionals were also unsuccessful, and of the 103 pharmacists who applied, none was issued a visa.
The data shows that 90 of the 97 applications by consultant doctors for tier 2 visas over the five-month period were approved, but only 733 of 2,341 applications for registrars succeeded.
Mrs May faced a Tory rebellion last month, led by Heidi Allen, calling for a relaxation of migration restrictions for the NHS. Business groups urged the prime minister to go farther and relax the rules more broadly.
Lord Green of Deddington, the chairman of Migration Watch, told the Telegraph: “This is the first time that immigration policy has been significantly softened since Mrs May became home secretary in 2010. It may be necessary, at least temporarily to cope with the prospect of Brexit, but in the longer term the answer has to be to train our own medics and not take them from countries that need them far more than we do.”
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