Top NHS officials have warned that UK immigration policy will lead to another Windrush scandal as rising numbers of foreign senior doctors are being forced to quit their jobs. Senior clinicians are being forced to leave the UK and return home to care for parents who are prohibited from coming to Britain by strict immigration rules.
Despite the NHS being under heavy strain amid the coronavirus pandemic, consultants, GPs and health workers told iNews that they are leaving the UK because of ‘harsh and inhumane’ immigration rules that affect adult dependent relatives (ADRs).
Earlier this month, Workpermit.com reported how the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and five other organisations, had appealed to UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to change the rules that apply to ADRs. However, the government has so far been unmoved while the number of health professionals leaving continues to rise.
Unbearable emotional dilemma
Top officials in the NHS say that doctors and other healthcare workers have been left with an unbearable emotional dilemma – either stay in the UK where their children were born or quit their jobs and abandon their patients to return home and care for their frail parents.
According to senior health officials, the Home Office’s hostile environment policy is a ‘ticking time bomb for another Windrush scandal’. Many, who joined the NHS decades ago, had expected to bring their elderly parents to the UK but are now being told that they can’t.
Up until July 2012, ADRs were only required to prove that they were living alone in the most exceptional compassionate circumstances.
Since then however, foreign nationals looking to bring ADRs to the UK to live in the country permanently must prove that their relative is unable to receive care in their home nation – a statement from a doctor or local authority in a person’s home country is required as proof.
Many of the NHS staff affected by the controversial UK immigration rule are now British citizens and feel betrayed by the government.
Home Office review
In 2016, a Home Office review of the policy change revealed that while 2,325 ADR applications had been granted between April 2010 and March 2011, just 135 were granted in 2018, 98 of which were only awarded following a review or appeal, which can take several years.
The Home Office has since stopped publishing data on ADR applications and when questioned by Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, Afzal Khan, who supports the call to review ADR rules, the government agency failed to give a direct answer.
Mr Khan had sent written parliamentary questions asking the Home Office to disclose how many visas had been granted via the ADR route for each year since 2017.
Hundred of thousands leave UK
While no exact number has been placed on how many foreign medics have already left the UK, it’s estimated that at least 170,000 non-British NHS England staff have been affected. 64,000 are reportedly Asian, while some 39 percent of hospital doctors and 20 percent of GPs qualified outside the UK.
Fears are now growing that more highly-skilled consultants will leave. A joint survey conducted by the BAPIO and the Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe (APPNE) revealed that 91 percent of respondents who had tried and failed to bring ADRs to the UK were left feeling ‘stressed, anxious and helpless.’
60 percent said that ADR application rejections had badly affected their work, while 85 percent said they had considered returning to their home country or relocating to a country where ADR immigration is more flexible.
Irfan Akhtar, president of APPNE, said: “Our members see themselves and BAME immigrant colleagues as guardians of the NHS and are proud to serve their communities in their various roles. However, we see multiple cases where the cream of the consultants, GPs, nursing and allied staff have had to choose between their vocation and their parents.”
“They are many miles away, lonely and vulnerable. These BAME immigrant doctors offer empathy to each person they meet and empathy is in short supply for their suffering and their commitments,” Akhtar added.
Harsh, unjust, unnecessary
A report published by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said that the UK’s ADR immigration rule is ‘harsh, unjust and unnecessary.’
The continued problems with the ADR policy come at a time when UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is facing a huge backlash over a 1 percent pay rise offered to NHS staff by the government. The offer has been described as ‘insulting’, with several unions now preparing for strike action.
Chairman of BAPIO, Professor JS Bamrah, said: “The emotional dilemma that migrant doctors and nurses face from being unable to support elderly parents in their native countries while serving the NHS is not to be underestimated. The inability to be with them when they’ve had COVID or to attend their funeral has caused grief and long term trauma to many colleagues.”
“The government needs to see this suffering, show humanity and compassion and change the ADR rules,” Bamrah added.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has since joined forces with APPNE and BAPIO to campaign for change.
Meanwhile, minister for Future Borders and UK Immigration, Kevin Foster, said in a letter to the three organisations that the ADR rules were in place to ‘ease the burden on UK taxpayers and the ‘significant NHS and social care costs that come with these cases.’
An excerpt from the letter, seen by iNews, says: “The Home Office continues to keep the Immigration Rules for adult dependent relatives under review and make adjustments in light of feedback on their operation and impact.”
“However, our overall assessment is the current rules represent a fairer deal for the UK taxpayer and are helping to ensure public confidence in the UK immigration system by providing assurance migration to the UK is not based on access to public services or welfare systems,” the letter added.
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