More than 1,500 medical applications for Tier 2 visas were turned down owing to the annual cap, according to new Home office figures.
A total of 1,518 applications were refused in the four-month period between December 2017 and March 2018.
Earlier this month, a psychiatry trainee told BMA News that her life had been ‘put on hold’ owing to a rejected application, while a consultant from the trust that wanted to employ the doctor, who had ‘excellent’ training and experience, said it meant waiting times for treatment would increase.
The figures show that 976 requests for specialty registrar visas were turned down, 331 for foundation year 2 doctors, and 47 for FY1 doctors.
In addition, 164 rejected applications were described as being from ‘specialty doctors and equivalent’.
The figures, obtained by the Campaign for Science and Engineering, may include multiple applications made by a single doctor.
'Inexplicable and threatening'
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said that the figures were very concerning.
He added that while the NHS was battling with widespread staffing shortages, the cap on visas that would allow much needed doctors into the country, had been reached for an unprecedented fifth month in a row.
He said: ‘At a time when the NHS is under enormous strain and struggling to fill positions, the current visa restrictions and arbitrary caps for non-EU workers entering the UK are inexplicable and threatening patient care and safety.
‘Delivering a more flexible immigration system which enables NHS recruitment is an easy win for the Government and will have long-term and immediate benefits for the future prosperity of the NHS.’
Earlier this month, the BMA and 13 other health organisations, wrote to the home secretary Sajid Javid, warning that the restrictions on visas was exacerbating the NHS’s staffing crisis.
The Government was forced to defend its position on visas, during a debate in Lords on 8 May, after Labour peer Baroness Thornton, citing the BMA’s warnings, said that the Tier 2 cap was directly harming patient care.
Meanwhile, health secretary Jeremy Hunt was reported as saying that he was open to the idea of a dedicated visa category for overseas doctors and other health workers looking to come to the UK.
In a media interview, Mr Hunt suggested that he might seek to raise the issue with his counterpart at the Home Office.
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