Immigration rules to be eased so NHS can recruit more skilled staff

Thousands more nurses and doctors to be recruited from abroad
Visa cap lifted

Thousands more nurses and doctors to be recruited from abroad

  • Non-EU nurses and doctors will be excluded from 20,700 tier 2 working visa limit
  • RCN, shadow health secretary and others welcome government U-turn
  • Immigration think tank British Future says it's a 'sensible move'
Visa cap lifted
The 2011 cap on tier 2 visas means many qualified health professionals are turned away,
despite acute NHS staffing shortages. Picture: Alamy

Immigration rules capping the number of overseas nurses working in the UK will be eased to allow the NHS to recruit more staff.

Home secretary Sajid Javid revealed today that non-EU nurses and doctors will be made exempt from the annual 20,700 tier 2 (working) visa limit on non-EU workers. The cap on the employment of people on tier 2 visas has been in place since 2011.

Vital contribution

RCN deputy director of nursing Stephanie Aiken said: '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.'

However, Ms Aiken added the move was only 'one piece of the puzzle', and warned said staffing shortages were making patient care increasingly unsafe.

'The government must develop a comprehensive and costed workforce plan that grows the workforce in line with population health and care needs, including incentivising more UK nationals into the profession.'

'Victory for common sense'

Downing Street confirmed the change will come into effect immediately after new regulations are tabled on Friday.

British Medical Association council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: 'Removing doctors and nurses from the tier 2 cap would represent a huge victory for common sense.

'We await a full announcement from the home secretary tomorrow and will be scrutinising the details.'

Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the news was 'a most welcome U-turn' on a policy that had undermined the needs of the NHS and the well-being of the nation.

Ms Abbott added: 'Labour has consistently questioned the logic of turning away qualified professionals from an NHS with thousands of vacancies.'

Healthcare surcharge

Immigration think tank British Future stated it would be a 'sensible move'. Director Sunder Katwala said: 'It never made sense to turn away doctors and nurses that the NHS needs. It also frees up tier 2 visa places for other employers who need high-skilled staff to fill vacancies.'

There is still no indication about whether the government might consider waiving the healthcare surcharge for overseas staff working in the UK.

The government introduced a policy in 2015 requiring non-European Economic Area nationals to pay a £200 surcharge per family member for every year on their work permit. This fee for potentially accessing NHS services will increase to £400 later this year.

Nurses at RCN congress this year voted to lobby government on this issue.

More information

Find out about tier-2 visas

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