Wigan's health chief slams decision to block visas for foreign doctors

A busy Wigan Infirmary A&E
A busy Wigan Infirmary A&E
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The head of Wigan’s hospitals has blasted the Home Office’s decision not to grant visas to doctors from overseas, describing it as “bonkers”.


Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, took to Twitter after the “vast majority” of 100 doctors hoping to work in the North West had their applications rejected.

Related: Visa rules have a huge impact says Wigan doctor

All 14 of the workers intending to join his trust were refused permission.

He tweeted: “Sorry to report that the vast majority of the NW 100 overseas doctors visas have been REFUSED including all those for @WWLNHS I’m trying to find a word to describe the Home Office decision but Trust decency filters prevent anything more than BONKERS!”

In a further tweet, Mr Foster said he feared doctors would change their minds about working in the UK, adding: “The Home Office decision will soon ‘amputate’ the hand that feeds us.”

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster

Wigan Council’s outgoing leader Lord Smith called it a “stupid decision” while a trust nurse called it an “absolute joke and so disappointing”.

Last month Wigan Today reported that concerns had been raised about restrictions on the number of workers coming from overseas to join the NHS.

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

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.

It came after 100 visas were reported to have been refused for a scheme in the North West supplying junior doctors to 30 NHS trusts.

A trust spokesman said at the time: “The issues regarding overseas recruitment of doctors is one affecting many trusts within the country, WWL being one of them.

“Nationally, we are unable to bring in doctors to fill the various vacancies within the NHS, with over 100 junior doctor vacancies that did not receive any interest from EU doctors, an issue which clearly would have an impact on patient care and patient safety.

“The lack of visas being accepted has a direct impact on our A&E performance and wait times, the clinical care we are able to give to our patients, and increased costs as gaps in the rotas are filled by locum doctors.

“We would like these doctors to be granted visas so that they may fill these gaps, improve our current A&E performance and waiting times and reduce the huge agency cost.”