Conservatives announce new ‘NHS visa’ scheme ahead of election
The Conservatives have said that their proposed ‘NHS visa’ will make it easier for doctors and nurses from other countries to come and work in the UK post-Brexit, should the party win December’s general election.
The visa scheme would be launched in advance of their proposed “points-based immigration system” but has drawn criticism from the Labour party over its lack of detail on other issues such as low pay for nurses.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "this policy is full of holes, with nothing to say about the nurses earning below their income threshold, as well as all the cooks, cleaners, hospital porters and others who are vital to hospitals, and nothing at all about their right to bring family members here.
"Labour's immigration policy is rational and fair and will prioritise attracting the people we need and treat them as human beings."
The Royal College of Nursing added that the plans needed to be “more ambitious” if they were to address the shortages of NHS staff, adding that a lack of trained nurses has forced the NHS to look abroad.
Its chief executive, Dame Donna Kinnair, added that future immigration policy must value skills and not focus on hitting "arbitrary targets".
Kinnair said: “there are tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and we need more ambitious plans than this to address it.”
According to a 2018 report, over 12 per cent of NHS workers are of non-British nationality, with 56 in every 1,000 NHS staff having come from the EU, but this number has since fallen.
The Conservative party has revealed that coming to work in the NHS will allow for “extra points”, while the cost of applying for a visa would be reduced from £928 to £464 for medical professionals.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: "From its inception the NHS has recruited globally. This new visa will make it easier for us to hire the finest doctors and nurses from other nations to come and work in the NHS, so that patients can receive the best possible care.”
The Conservatives’ target is to introduce the points-based system in 2021, having already announced an end to caps on the number of skilled workers and the start of a fast-track visa scheme to encourage individuals specialised in science, engineering and technology to work in the UK.