The NHS is buckling under the pressure of Covid-19, with tens of thousands of doctors and nurses across England now off sick because of the virus – accounting for almost half of all staff absences.
The UK’s daily coronavirus deaths have reached four figures for the first time since April. The staffing crisis has become so severe that NHS bosses have been pleading with doctors and nurses to work extra shifts.
Yet at the same time, there are qualified health workers sitting at home who are desperate to be on the front line helping to tackle the crisis but who are being prevented from doing so.
Many are waiting for the Home Office to issue their biometric residence permits (BRP), which prove a visa holder’s right to work in the UK – with some having already waited months when the process should, according to the government, take seven to 10 days.
Others are asylum seekers who have been waiting on their claims for over a year – at which point they should be allowed to work in shortage occupations, which include all medical practitioners – but they are facing delays receiving evidence of their right to work from the Home Office.
Dr Dolin Bhagawati, a neurosurgeon and editorial lead for Doctors’ Association UK, said he knew of about 40 cases of qualified medical staff currently being unable to work because to delays in their BRP cards being issued.
“Right now, the UK is crying out for all the trained staff we have available, even calling up retired NHS workers and students. However, by not doing all it can to allow foreign doctors with valid visas to work as soon as possible, the Home Office is failing to do its part in a nationwide effort to fight this virus,” he said.
Dr Bhagawati said a “simple” solution would be to grant indefinite leave to remain for all NHS and care workers and their dependents in order to “simplify this process, cut down on bureaucratic excuses and allow everybody to get on with their jobs”.
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