UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has been urged to alter UK visa rules for adult dependent relatives by prominent doctors’ organisations. A joint letter issued by the organisations says that the current UK visa rules that apply to adult dependent relatives (ADR) have ‘heart-breaking consequences on foreign-born medical practitioners working in the UK.’
The letter, sent on 13 January, was written by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and five other organisations, stating that ADR rules place an ‘immense emotional burden on medical professionals, which deprives them of the opportunity to uphold their filial obligations’.
Under current UK immigration rules, British residents whose elderly parents live overseas are able to bring them into the country, provided that the individual resident in Britain can prove that their relative(s) need long-term personal care that they are unable to access in their home country because of cost or availability.
Forced out of the UK
Doctors’ organisations have warned that the loss of medical practitioners because of UK visa rules around adult relative dependents is adding to the strain put on the NHS, which is at breaking point. Rising COVID cases have seen major surgeries and other vital medical services cancelled as the UK’s health service struggles to cope.
A BAPIO survey carried out in August 2020 found that 91% of respondents felt anxious, stressed or helpless because of UK visa issues related to bringing dependents to Britain. Meanwhile, 60% said the issue was adversely affecting their work and professionalism and a further 80% said they’d thought about relocating.
The major impact of the rule has seen elderly parents separated from their children settled in the UK. The BAPIO said that this has a profound effect on the mental health of its members. Many are said to have reported increased stress and anxiety over the wellbeing of their parents and their care.
Home Office review
The letter referred to a 2016 Home Office review of the adult-dependent relative rules, which resulted in a number of changes and a decline in applications to bring adult dependents to the UK. In 2012, 2,325 applications were made, representing just 0.0069% of total immigration to the UK and 0.011% of all non-EU immigration.
However, following the 2016 rule changes, application numbers slumped to just 162 for that year.
The letter states: “There is no statistical evidence to suggest that the cost of lifting these restrictions for doctors on the NHS would be a burden to the taxpayer.”
Dr. Ramesh Mehta, the president of BAPIO, said: “The sheer stress of our NHS workers here having to battle with COVID-19 is hard enough without them having to worry about elderly parents thousands of miles away. No family should be without a grandparent, wherever that is possible.”
“I know of several senior doctors who have been faced with dividing their time between their frontline work and having to tend to elderly parents sick with COVID-19 in India. The best reward they can get is for the government to do the right thing here and make the rules flexible,” Dr Mehta added.
Dr. JS Bamrah, the chair of BAPIO, said: “Too often immigrants fall into a second tier and in this case, there is a real necessity on compassionate grounds for the government to allow NHS staff to bring their elderly parents to the UK to meet their needs.”
The letter was sent by BAPIO in association with the British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe.
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