Conservatives pledge NHS visas to address staffing fears
On 8 November 2019, the Conservative party announced plans to implement a new NHS visa if they are voted into office in the election to be held in December. Following the announcement, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the measures are part of the party’s plan to introduce an “Australian-style points-based immigration system that allows us to control numbers while remaining open to vital professions like nurses”.
Patel went on to say that the plans allow the UK to attract “talent from around the world so our NHS continues to provide brilliant service” while simultaneously “ensuring that it isn’t put under strain by opening Britain’s borders to the entire world“.Although the UK leaving the EU will bring to an end the free movement of EU national workers, the proposed system provides potential exceptions such as the proposed NHS visa to the new rules, as well as providing a route to working in the UK for certain qualified non-EEA nationals.
The details of the points-based system are yet to have been announced, however Conservative party plans have stated that along with providing a specific visa for potential overseas NHS recruits, the cost of applying for a visa as a medical professional will be reduced from £928 to £464, with successful applicants to be permitted to pay the immigration health surcharge out of their salary (as opposed to upfront at the time of application).
The announcement received a mixed reception from stakeholders including the Royal College of Nursing who claimed that the plan needed to be “more ambitious”, with CEO Dame Donna Kinnair specifically criticising the imposition of the immigration health surcharge on nurses when the NHS is struggling to recruit qualified staff, saying that “it is of deep regret that the prime minister is preserving the immoral and heartless charge for overseas nurses to use the same services they keep running. It should be abolished, not spread out every month”.
Although the finer details are still to be determined, it is clear that the plans as announced are unlikely to end the staffing issues faced by the NHS.
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Matthew Tilley is a compliance paralegal
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