- 04 May 2021
- 3 min read
Overseas Nurses And Health Workers Get Free Visa Lifeline
Thousands of nurses as well as many other health workers from overseas have been offered a free one-year visa extension.
The extension benefits more than 14,000 employees and offers some positive news for trusts and employers across the UK who continue to worry about staffing levels.
Covid Pressure Eased, But Staffing Pressure Remains
With the continued success of the vaccine rollout combining with positive impacts from the last lockdown, Covid infection rates have plummeted – as have hospitalisations.
Hospital wards, and especially ICUs, are beginning to return to something closer to normal levels.
But the staffing crisis that began long before the pandemic remains.
Exacerbated by a wide variety of factors including Brexit, staff recruitment is under the microscope, with almost 90,000 vacancies across the NHS in England.
Staff retention is inevitably in focus too, with a recent health service survey revealing that staff-related stress in the NHS had increased by 10% during 2020.
The debate over the proposed 1% pay rise hasn’t helped, especially with various industry bodies and politicians demanding a more generous increase.
As a result, anything and everything the government can do to support and reassure health workers is valuable.
And this free visa extension is a prime example.
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Care Workers Miss Out Again
The free visa extension is being offered to workers whose visa is set to run out in the coming months.
A health and care worker visa normally costs £232 per person.
This visa extension also applies to partners and children.
Therefore, for many it offers a significant saving.
A similar scheme was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, but it was only offered to nurses, doctors and paramedics.
It was later extended to more professions.
However, this extension has not been offered to care workers – a decision which has been heavily criticised.
With hourly rates often just above minimum wage, and a very high proportion of overseas workers, the care sector is desperate for exactly this kind of incentive.
The care sector of course faces its own staffing crisis, with more than 100,000 vacancies across the UK.
So it’s hoped the government will change its position.
Nonetheless, for nurses and other health professionals this extension is good news – and it’s hoped that the government will continue to support overseas workers as the uncertain fallout from Brexit continues to emerge.