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Immigration Rules deny NHS of doctors


What is the news?

Around one hundred international doctors recruited by the NHS have been denied visas by the Home Office in the past month, causing shortages to our healthcare system.

What does the news mean?

An employer wanting to recruit a skilled worker from outside the EU must apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa sponsorship licence to sponsor the worker. Once the employer has this licence, it is allocated “certificates of sponsorship” which it can then issue to sponsored workers who must also have a tier 2 visa.

However, the grant of UK certificates of sponsorship to skilled non-EU workers is subject to a monthly cap, with the Home Office justifying this restriction as being in ‘the national interest’. If this cap is reached, the Home Office is forced to refuse any further applications for Tier 2 visas.

The NHS have hit back at immigration officials saying that this refusal will lead to unfilled rotas and will put patient safety at risk. They have said that as a result, rotas will need to be filled with locums at a significance expense (which is, of course, public money and could be spent elsewhere).

What do we think of the news?

The news is yet another example of the challenges arising from the stricter regimes put in place in light of the government’s promises to reduce immigration.

In January 2018, it was reported that senior doctors from overseas who had been appointed to fill key roles in hospitals around the UK had been prevented from taking up posts due to a £55,000 salary threshold set by the Home Office. This is coupled with the significant decrease in nurses of EU or EEA origin which, it has been reported, is mainly attributable to fears over Brexit.

Now, the British Medical Association (the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK) has called for the Tier 2 (General) certificate cap (and, as a result of this the number of visas that can be granted) to be urgently reviewed arguing ‘it is crucial that the UK has a flexible immigration system which allows the NHS to recruit the necessary staff to deliver safe, high-quality care’.

The current immigration regime is designed to encourage employers to first recruit from the UK resident labour market before looking overseas. The reasoning behind this is obvious, however it fails to properly consider how to handle the serious shortage in the UK for a particular skill which may be required en masse.

In the NHS, one in 11 posts is vacant and there is a shortage of 100,000 staff. This puts pressure on the people working in the NHS from a working time/health and safety perspective, and financial pressure on the NHS to bring in expensive cover.

The UK needs to have the flexibility to employ the right, skilled individuals to fill the vacancies it has, however, balancing these needs with social and political pressure to control immigration will only make this harder, particularly given the scrutiny arising from the Windrush scandal and as we approach Brexit.

If you would like to know more about the above, please contact, Associate, Siobhan Howard-Palmer on T: 0161 358 0537 or E: siobhanhoward-palmer@hrclaw.co.uk.

This piece contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.