Visa caps for doctors will not be reintroduced says Matt Hancock following DAUK letter to the Home Office
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) welcomes the news of the Home Office relaxing its immigration restrictions on doctors applying for tier 2 visas. We believe this is long overdue and look forward keenly to the specifics of how these changes are to be implemented. However, we are concerned that it has taken this length of time to announce a change in policy, given that caps have been hit for many months now and the NHS is facing widespread vacancies, numbering some 10,000 for doctors.
The Doctors' Association UK is supporting Dr Iqra Akhtar, an NHS doctor, who may not be able to take up a GP training post due to visa caps. Dr Akhtar has been in the UK working in the NHS for year, and has successfully applied for GP training. To take up her post Dr Akhtar resigned her post as a non-training staff grade to move to Preston and was required to switch to unrestricted Tier 2 visa. This has now been refused.
Dr Akhtar is now residing in the UK on a spousal visa, and is waiting to hear from the Home Office after her Trust re-applied for a tier 2 visa. If her visa continues to be refused Dr Akhtar will be unable to take up her post to start training as a GP. Speaking to DAUK she expressed frustration that visa caps were designed to reduce immigration, yet she is already resident.
Dr Akhtar told DAUK "the visa caps are affecting my career. I planned to start my GP training; having worked in the NHS and being a resident in the UK I did not anticipate this was going to affect me. This is very discouraging for doctors, especially those aspiring to work in the NHS."
Dr Akhtar also added that visa caps will adversely impact rota gaps.
The Doctors' Association UK has written to Dr Akhtar's MP Sir Mark Kendrick and asked him to take up Dr Akhtar's case with the Home Office.
This week, DAUK wrote to Sajid Javid warning of the impact of visa caps on general practice. The letter was published in The Independent. Speaking to Sky News, DAUK Chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden said:
"What we've been hearing about at The Doctor's Association UK are cases of doctors currently working in the UK, who have been training the UK, in specialities such as General Practice which is short across the frontlines...and because of visa issues they are being asked to leave.
Which is terrible for the NHS when we are so short of doctors but there is a real human cost for these doctors who have invested so much in training, in service to the NHS, who have made their homes here and are now being asked to leave"
In a letter to Sajid Javid dated 3rd June, The Doctors' Association UK express concern that Theresa May's caps on Tier 2 visas are now affecting general practice. The letter, timed for release with the RCGP, states doctors "are feeling the strain of working in departments, wards and general practices, which are severely understaffed" and note that "several specialties are under-filled".
DAUK to goes on highlight how General Practice is being affected by Tier 2 visa caps.
"In particular, we are concerned by hearing a number of cases affecting those wishing to train as GPs in the UK, those currently in GP training and even fully qualified GPs who have completed their training in the UK and now are being refused tier 2 visas".
DAUK goes on to cite a cases of doctor currently in GP training who has been forced to leave the country, and a further two cases of doctors unable to take up GP training posts that they had successfully applied for, one of whom is already working in the NHS.
The Doctors' Association UK are supporting many other doctors who have approached them with their own stories regarding visas. Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Chair of DAUK said "These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. We have been approached by many others in the same situation, many of whom are devastated they cannot pursue their chosen career of General Practice. The government's promise of an extra 5000 GPs by 2020 seems unlikely to be delivered, yet we are turning potential GPs away from the UK".
DAUK has learnt that visa issues are also affecting fully qualified GPs, who are struggling to find a practice to sponsor them for a visa. Today, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard called for NHS England to sponsor visa for GPs, to spare small practices the cost and bureaucracy of applications.
This morning, The Doctors' Association UK told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, that in respect to boosting the NHS workforce with overseas GPs "getting them here, means changing the rules".
Today Dr Nnaemeka Chidumije, an NHS surgeon whose visa has been denied to return to the UK appeared on Sky News. Alongside Dr Iain Campbell, Secretary General of the Independent Health Professional Association, Dr Chidumije discussed his case as well as DAUK's campaign Scrap the Cap.
Dr Chidumijie had this to say:
"I've lived in the UK since 2013, I've enjoyed working in the NHS, it's been a privilege."
"I am very keen to come back to the Uk and continue the job I love I work with brilliant trainers, colleagues, nurses, doctors, healthcare works, and it's been such a privilege to work in the NHS"
"I have got brilliant colleagues from the DAUK going with this Scrap the Cap campaign they have been brilliant and intend to come back to the UK and continue my work as a surgical trainee in the NHS".
A Home Office spokesperson gave this statement.
Dr Iain Campbell, Secretary-General of the IHPA had this to say in response:
"It's an outrageous example of a tickbox mentality. The NHS is drastically short staffed, for [the government] to try and claim that this is somehow acting in the national interest is frankly outrageous."
"There's a very human consequence to this and my heart goes out to Dr Chidumije"
"Immigrants far from being a problem to our health care service, they are the backbone and fundamentally the service would not work without their help".
"It is madness that doesn't take into account the needs of the system. We desperately need as many people as we can get, there is no way the NHS is not struggling without him [Dr Chidumije]."
"I am very grateful to DAUK for the excellent work they have done on the Scrap the Cap PR drive to raise awareness of this issue"
You can watch the full interview below courtesy of Dr Kishan Rees of WatMed Media.