Drive to at­tract hun­dreds of non-eu doc­tors to Scot­land

●Im­mi­gra­tion cap to be lifted to tackle NHS staff short­age amid Brexit fears

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By PARIS GOURTSOYANNIS West­min­ster Correspondent

Hun­dreds more doc­tors from out­side Europe will be avail­able to NHS bosses in Scot­land to help ease the re­cruit­ment cri­sis in the big­gest re­lax­ation of im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy in more than a decade.

The UK gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to an­nounce that it is re­mov­ing NHS work­ers from the cap on tier 2 skilled worker visas, clear­ing a bot­tle­neck that has pre­vented badly-needed doc­tors and nurses from be­ing re­cruited to meet grow­ing de­mand for health­care.

An ad­di­tional 8,000 skilled mi­grants in other pro­fes­sions in­clud­ing IT, en­gi­neer­ing and teach­ing are ex­pected to be al­lowed to come to the UK each year un­der the pro­pos­als.

It is a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory for the new Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid, who said he would ex­am­ine the cap fol­low­ing con­cerns about doc­tors with job of­fers in the UK be­ing turned away by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

The re­ports were wel­comed by the Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (BMA) Scot­land, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader Ruth David­son, who said “chang­ing the rules to permit more doc­tors, en­gi­neers and other highly skilled

pro­fes­sion­als en­try to the UK is good for the NHS and good for the econ­omy”.

Ms David­son has stepped up calls on Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May to re­view a con­tro­ver­sial net mi­gra­tion tar­get of 100,000 to boost the econ­omy and ease pres­sure on pub­lic ser­vices, with Brexit ex­pected to see a sig­nif­i­cant drop in work­ers ar­riv­ing from EU coun­tries. How­ever, Down­ing Street has so far re­sisted any de­mands for a re­lax­ation in im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

The num­ber of work­ers from coun­tries out­side the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area al­lowed into the UK with a tier 2 visa is capped at 20,700 an­nu­ally, a limit that has been breached ev­ery month since De­cem­ber as em­ploy­ers in­creas­ingly re­cruit from out­side the EU.

GPS had warned Mr Javid of a “des­per­ate need” for the cap to be lifted amid es­ca­lat­ing pa­tient de­mand and grow­ing short­ages of doc­tors in some roles.

In the three months to March 2018, more than 1,500 visa ap­pli­ca­tions from doc­tors with job of­fers in the UK were re­fused as a re­sult of the cap, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

The Home Of­fice de­clined to com­ment on leaks. The ex­emp­tion for NHS staff is ex­pected to be time-lim­ited.

The BMA Scot­land wel­comed the move to help en­sure the sup­ply of doc­tors meets de­mand. In the past few months, new fig­ures have re­vealed how NHS Scot­land staff have re­ported con­cerns about staff short­ages 16,600 times in the past four years, while £26 mil­lion was paid in over­time to nurses and mid­wives last year.

Peter Ben­nie, chair­man of the BMA in Scot­land, last month met MEPS in Brus­sels to warn that “cut­ting off ” the sup­ply of EU medics com­ing to work in Scot­land af­ter Brexit will have a “dis­as­trous” im­pact on the NHS.

BMA Coun­cil chair­man Dr Chaand Nag­paul said yes­ter­day: “It will be a re­lief to pa­tients and staff across the NHS that com­mon sense has fi­nally pre­vailed and the tier 2 visa re­stric­tions on non-eu doc­tors and nurses are to be lifted. These reg­u­la­tions have pre­vented thou­sands of noneu doc­tors be­ing al­lowed to work in the UK to fill empty posts that the health ser­vice is un­able to fill.

“The NHS has al­ways re­lied on these highly-skilled, ex­pe­ri­enced over­seas doc­tors to pro­vide front­line care to pa­tients, and they are needed more than ever at a time when the NHS is un­der mount­ing pres­sure from ris­ing de­mand, stag­nat­ing fund­ing and staff short­ages.”

Health Sec­re­tary Shona Ro­bi­son said: “We wrote to Home Of­fice min­is­ters in April to high­light the dif­fi­cul­ties that visa re­fusals present to pub­lic ser­vices and busi­nesses, and there­fore wel­come any pro­posed changes to pol­icy that would mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive im­pact cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies have on Scot­land’s needs.”

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