UK Prime Minister Rejected Pleas to Allow More Foreign Doctors for NHS: Report

Three government departments had lobbied for the visa rules to be relaxed, but Prime Minister Theresa May did not budge from her stand.


United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May is in the middle of yet another immigration controversy, following reports that she overruled Cabinet ministers’ request for recruitment of more overseas doctors in UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Lobbying to hire more foreign doctors to plug the gap in the number of medical practitioners in the NHS went on for many months, before the organization came out publicly asking for relaxation of rules, and fill in the empty posts, the Evening Standard reported. Three government departments had urged for visa rules to be relaxed so that the urgently-needed doctors and specialists can be allowed in the United Kingdom. May, however, turned their request down, the report cited sources as saying.

“It remains essential we have control of the immigration system and it works in the national interest,” May’s official spokesman James Slack said, commenting on the Evening Standard report, according to the Guardian.

Slack added that the situation regarding visa application for doctors is under evaluation. “We are monitoring the situation in relation to visa applications for doctors, including the monthly limits through the tier 2 visa route. Around one-third of all tier 2 visas go to the NHS and investing in our workforce will continue to be a top priority,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

A person can apply for the tier-2 visa in the United Kingdom if they have been offered a skilled job in the country and if they are from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Home Secretary Amber Rudd were said to have been asking Downing Street to lift the cap for special cases like for the NHS doctors. However, May did not budge from her decision when she was urged to lift the quota, the Evening Standard reported, citing a Whitehall source. The cap system has a limit of 1,000 to 2,200 skilled migration in a month, which together cannot exceed 20,700 people a year.

“I think Jeremy and Amber were on the same page on this but No. 10 (Downing Street) were in a different place entirely. The cap had been reached for several months consecutively and the pressures on business and the health service were building up,” another source was quoted as saying by the publication.

Doctors and members of parliament have criticized May after it appeared that she had vetoed appeals made by the cabinet. “It’s really completely and utterly crazy. We are desperately short of qualified doctors to work in this country. Hospitals are desperate for them to come, patients need them. To have a bureaucratic block to them coming, I cannot understand it.,” Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the Family Doctor Association, was quoted as saying by the Evening Standard.

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth has also written to Sajid Javid, the new home secretary, that the cap on recruitment of foreign doctors since December shows that “the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy is now directly damaging NHS patient care,” the Guardian reported.

NHS Million, a non-profit campaign run by a team of NHS staff with the aim of creating a “superteam” of a million people who will love and cherish it, took to the social media following the report.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also took to Twitter to criticize May.

It was reported recently that 100 Indian doctors who had been recruited for 30 NHS trusts in the north west of England were not allowed entry to the United Kingdom. The health chiefs said that placing limits on the number of visas being given to doctors who belong to outside the European Economic Area led to gaps in rotas, with patient care being delayed.

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