IMMIGRATION rules are to be relaxed in a bid to attract more healthcare professionals to the UK, the Home Office has announced.
The government plans to exclude doctors and nurses from the cap on skilled non-EU workers following appeals from health leaders.
This means there will be no restriction on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the tier 2 visa route, which currently has an annual limit of 20,700.
The number of applications has exceeded the number of available visas every month since December 2017, with the NHS accounting for 40 per cent of all tier 2 places. Despite ongoing reports of recruitment shortages within the health service, more than 1,500 doctors were refused a visa between December 2017 and March 2018.
Excluding doctors and nurses will free up hundreds of tier 2 spaces a month for other professionals applying to work in the UK.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard welcomed the announcement as “a much-needed victory for common sense and patient care”.
She said: “We are currently desperately short of GPs in the UK… yet despite the Government's pledge for 5,000 more family doctors by 2020, the number of GPs working in the NHS in England is actually falling.
"[W]e would welcome any appropriately-trained doctor who wants to work in UK general practice to help us deliver care to over one million patients a day.”
She went on to say that, regardless of the tier 2 visa cap, there remain “significant barriers” for GPs to employ doctors from overseas. She urged home secretary Sajid Javid to do more to cut the “arduous red tape and significant costs” of this recruitment process.
The RCGP also renewed its calls for GPs to be added to the shortage occupation list.