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"
Last night, DAUK Chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden was interviewed live on Sky News about the issue of Tier 2 visas and how it is affecting the NHS.
"What we are seeing as The Doctors' Association UK and frontline doctors are widespread shortages. We know that there are 10,000 vacancies across the NHS, yet 1500 visas have been denied to overseas doctors willing to fill those gaps.
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".
Dr Batt-Rawden also spoke out on the case of Dr Nnameka Chidumije, an NHS surgeon asked to leave the UK.
Watch the full interview below:
Doctors told to leave UK after Home Office refuses to issue them visas
The Doctors' Association UK's letter to the home secretary was published in The Independent yesterday.
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.
A talented NHS surgeon has been forced to return to his home country of Nigeria. Dr Nnaemeka Chidumije has been working in the NHS since moving to the United Kingdom in 2013. On separating from his British wife and lapse of his spousal visa, Dr Chidumije was advised by the Home Office to return to Nigeria on the alleged promise of returning under a Tier 2 highly skilled migrant visa. His application, sponsored by Health Education England, has now been refused four times.
In a letter to Mr Ian Mearns MP, Dr Chidumije's colleagues and fellow surgeons attest to his talent and describe him as "a doctor with considerable natural ability". His fellow surgeons further express frustration that the current immigration policy has "failed to recognise the contribution of this exceptional individual to the NHS and his potential to greatly benefit this country in the future" and state that the hospital he was working in has now been left "short staffed".
The Doctors' Association UK are supporting Dr Chidumije through what has been a difficult and devastating experience. Dr Chidumije said "I am unable to return to the job I love and the place I now call home. My post in the NHS is one of many vacant positions in the NHS contributing to a staffing crisis"
The Doctors' Association UK is co-ordinating a national campaign on Dr Chidumje's behalf as part of our ongoing campaign Scrap the Cap. DAUK has written a letter to Theresa May on behalf of Dr Chidumije and have also started petition for his visa to be granted.
You can add your signature below or read our letter in full.
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