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Visa cap harms patients

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Patient care is being directly harmed by the Government’s cap on visas issued to overseas doctors, a debate in Lords has heard.

Home office minister Baroness Williams was forced to defend the Government’s capping of the number of Tier 2 visas it makes available to non-EU overseas workers, which has seen hundreds of doctors prevented from taking up jobs in the NHS.

Speaking in the debate, Labour peer Baroness Thornton cited a case recently highlighted by the BMA, of a psychiatry registrar from India unable to take up a vacant post despite being considered the best candidate for the job.

The registrar, who has stated that she wishes to remain anonymous, told the BMA that her life had been ‘put on hold’ as a result of the delays in her obtaining a visa.

Meanwhile, a consultant at the trust attempting to recruit her, warned the visa delay was placing strain on other staff and services.

Baroness Thornton said: ‘In Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, children and young people with mental health problems are having to wait many months to access mental health treatment because the [doctor] … who has been chosen and appointed, has not yet been granted a visa five months after the cap for Tier 2 NHS workers was reached.

‘On Friday it will be six months, and we will probably find that the same applies. Does the minister agree that the Government’s hostile environment policy is now directly damaging patient care?’

Baroness Williams refused to talk about the specific case, but referred to an earlier answer in which she said no-one on the shortage occupation list should be denied a work visa.

She added that the Government was no longer using the term ‘hostile environment’ in this context because of the ‘negative connotations’, but preferred ‘compliant environment’.

Under the existing guidelines, the numbers of certificate of sponsorship required for Tier 2 visas is subject to monthly caps.

Earlier this month, NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said that his organisation estimated that more than 400 overseas doctors have been affected by visa caps in 2018 alone.

The BMA, along with more than a dozen other health organisations, wrote to home secretary Sajid Javid on 3 May, warning that the arbitrary limitations on recruitment posed by the Tier 2 process, was exacerbating the NHS’ staffing crisis.

Read the BMA’s guidance on Tier 2 visas

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