Today, right now in hospitals all across the country, doctors on the front lines of the NHS are staffing critically undermanned medical rotas.
The strain of this is being acutely felt by all of us everyday, as we struggle to deliver safe care to our patients. We undertake our work knowing that we do not have enough doctors to adequately staff our wards, general practices, emergency departments, theatres and intensive care units. The ramifications of such shortages put patients at imminent risk, and it is a daily struggle for hospital trusts to address such gaps, often being forced into spending vast sums of money on locum doctors to meet demand. Doctors from abroad are vital in filling these gaps and they provide an invaluable addition to our teams.
It is then with marked astonishment and anxiety that we greet the news of several hundred doctors being refused their tier 2, highly skilled worker visas, seemingly on direct instruction by the Prime Minister.
These are trained medical professionals that have have been vetted and welcomed by hospitals to commence jobs within the NHS and join departments that are desperately understaffed. We are relying on them to join our ranks and treat patients in dire need of their skills.
In this current environment, such a blanket refusal is utterly inexplicable and totally without valid justification.
The government seems riddled with internal conflict over this issue, with serious dissent within the cabinet to the policy.
Despite pressure to relax such restrictions from the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Business secretary Greg Clark, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over the preceding months, Mrs. May seems determined to ensure that our teams remain understaffed. She persists undeterred with no thought as to the grave implications for patient care, apparently deaf to the voice of reason.
In this past fortnight, it has emerged that 100 doctors from India, were prevented from taking up their jobs. Furthermore, the chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer, has stated that since December, another 400 doctors have been denied permits to commence jobs they have successfully applied for.
Such actions have been defended as ‘being in the national interest’. Is it truly in the national interest that the government actively prohibit empty posts being filled by qualified professionals, when there are reportedly some 100,000 vacancies across front line services?
Whitehall has reportedly stated it ‘absolutely refuses to budge’. Why, when foreign nationals comprising some 12.5 percent of all NHS staff, are crucial in providing a multitude of vital services and curbing their numbers will inevitably cause more delays and cancellations?
The head of the General Medical Council, Mr. Charlie Massey, has himself publicly stated his frustration at government departments working at cross purposes to one another and the impact of this on a painfully overstretched health service.
There is no logical rationale in blindly adhering to such a blatantly nonsensical, hardline policy in the face of such overwhelming criticism.
There can be no possible benefit to our patients from enforcing regulation that will manifestly harm them.
As doctors keen to deliver the best care we can, we demand that this policy be urgently reversed. We demand the immediate relaxation of tier 2 visa restrictions for doctors who have been been accepted for positions in this country so that they may take up their jobs post haste.
We demand that the Prime Minister listen to the voices of thousands of doctors and allied health care professionals raising concern over this issue and that of other doctors already resident here, who have been deported or threatened with deportation by an over judicious Home Office.
It is time this issue is put to rest and our government starts listening to our concerns.
Dr. Neil Tiwari MBBS MRCEM
Core Trainee Anaesthetics
Co-Editor, The Doctors’ Association UK