Wigan's health boss welcomes visa rule change

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

The head of the borough’s hospitals has welcomed plans to ease restrictions on the number of non-EU doctors and nurses allowed to work in the UK.

Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, previously described the decision to refuse visas for 100 doctors as “bonkers”.

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster

It was hoped they would bolster staffing levels in the NHS in the North West, with 14 heading to the borough.

But it has now been reported that Home Secretary Sajid Javid will remove non-EU doctors and nurses from the annual 20,700 ‘tier two’ visa limit on non-EU workers.

The move would allow the NHS to recruit more staff from overseas.

Mr Foster said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that good sense has prevailed and a decision has been made to lift the ban on granting visas to overseas doctors.

“This is fantastic news and will make a tremendous difference, not just to our trust, but to the NHS as a whole.

“The recruitment of these international doctors will have a direct impact in improving A&E performance and waiting times, enabling us to continue to provide the best clinical care for patients in our care.

“It will also save money by filling gaps in rotas currently being filled by locums and, in turn, will reduce huge agency costs.”

Doctors have been speaking out about the situation in recent weeks.

Health chiefs warned immigration rules were worsening NHS staffing pressures by preventing doctors from abroad travelling to Britain.

They said limits on the number of visas issued to doctors from outside the EU were contributing to rota gaps and delays in patients receiving care.

The British Medical Journal said between December 2017 and March 2018 more than 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers in the UK were refused as a result of the cap on workers from outside the European Economic Area.

It is hoped changes to the immigration rules will help to ease the pressures faced in hospitals around the country.

Tier two is the official name for an immigration route to the UK for skilled non-European workers.

They are available to people taking up posts on a ‘shortage occupations list’, which features specific jobs across sectors including engineering, IT, science, health and the arts.

As well as allowing more overseas doctors and nurses to work in the UK, the change would create space for thousands more immigrants in areas like science and IT.

Sunder Katwala, director of immigration think-tank British Future, said it was a “sensible move”.

He said: “It never made sense to turn away doctors and nurses that the NHS needs. It also frees up tier two visa places for other employers who need high-skilled staff to fill vacancies.”

The Home Office declined to comment.