Home Office stalls on UK visa scheme for overseas NHS doctors

Sanwar Ali comment:

There is a well publicised shortage of medical staff in the UK.   Under the Tier 2 visa and Tier 2 Sponsor Licence scheme both doctors and nurses are in the Shortage Occupation List.  Despite this the Government and UK Visa and Immigration at the Home Office do not appear to be fully taking advantage of this Doctor trainee visa scheme.

If Brexit does eventually happen there needs to be major reform of the UK visa system.  There are doubts that the UK is ready for Brexit.   The UK visa system cannot even cope with the current situation.  If there is a deal on Brexit and say after a long transitional period, the UK visa system will have to deal with a situation where EU citizens can no longer work freely in the UK.

The Home Office has stalled on plans to expand the Medical Training Initiative (MTI) under the UK Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa, according to a Personnel Today report. The scheme would allow more medical trainees to study and work in the UK within the NHS, helping to ease staff shortages.

Earlier this year, NHS bosses announced that the UK government had made plans to expand the MTI scheme. Under existing rules, the government authorised programme allows up to 1,000 trainee doctors from outside the EU to work in the UK for a maximum of two years.

However, an anonymous source told The Guardian: “Diddly-squat has happened and that’s down to the Home Office. It’s down to them to make it happen and they’ve not done that.”

Home Office inactive on UK visa scheme

President of the Royal College of Physicians, Doctor Andrew Goddard, said: “The government has said that expanding the NHS workforce is a priority, but the NHS is yet to see any action on some of the quick wins.”

“Almost a year after indicating they were considering lifting the cap on the number of international doctors coming into the UK on the MTI scheme, we are still waiting,” Doctor Goddard added.

Meanwhile, the Home Office declined to comment on whether it had progressed proposals to expand the MTI scheme to more entrants.

However, a spokesperson for the government agency said: “The MTI, like other visas offered under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange scheme, is subject to regular review to ensure it meets the aims of the UK immigration system.”

Tier 2 work visa

The spokesperson did acknowledge the contribution of migrant staff across the NHS, saying: “We recognise the valuable contribution that migrant staff make to the NHS, which is why we removed doctors and nurses from the annual cap on Tier 2 work visas. In the last 12 months we issued more than 15,000 visas to the health and social work activities sector, many of whom are doctors and nurses for the NHS.”

The director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, Paul Wallace, said: “Employers in the NHS value the MTI scheme and what it offers doctors from low and middle income countries, as well as what we and our teams can learn from them. The commitment to MTI in the NHS long term plan was welcomed.”

Doctors and nurses exempt from annual Tier 2 visa cap

Doctors and nurses resident outside the UK wishing to work in the UK, were made exempt from the annual Tier 2 visa cap on 6 July, 2018 following a series of UK visa and immigration changes made by the Home Office.

The exemption was welcomed by senior healthcare officials, who said that it gives the NHS a ‘greater ability to hire more international doctors and nurses to provide outstanding patient care when required.’

According to the UK government, demand for Tier 2 visas is largely driven by the NHS, accounting for approximately 40% of Tier 2 places. However, according to a Financial Times report, 2,630 doctors from outside the EU have been refused a visa over the last five months, despite crippling staff shortages across the NHS.

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