- 09 November 2019
- 4 min read
Johnson promises new NHS visa to fast track recruitment of overseas nurses
Boris Johnson is promising a fast track “NHS visa” making it easier for overseas doctors and nurses to work in the UK if the Tories win the General Election.
Scheme will attract foreign nurses and doctors after Brexit
Tories say they want to attract medical professionals to work in the UK after Britain leaves the EU.
Ministers said the scheme would enable the health service to continue to attract the finest medical staff after Britain has left the EU.
However, Labour accused the Tories of “tying themselves in knots” – using “dog whistle anti-immigrant rhetoric” while trying to bring in migrant workers to keep public services working.
Labour was focusing its campaign effort on measures to support women in the workplace, including raising statutory maternity pay and better entitlement to flexible working.
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New NHS visa
The Conservatives’ new NHS visa will ultimately form part of the party’s planned points-based immigration system to be introduced after Brexit.
The move reflects concern within the health service that it will struggle to attract the staff it needs when Britain is outside the EU.
Under the scheme, the cost of a visa for health professionals would be halved from £928 to £464, while applicants would be guaranteed a decision within two weeks.
Applicants coming to work in the NHS would receive preferential treatment with extra points under the points-based system, and no cap on numbers entering through the NHS route.
They would also be able to pay back the cost of the immigration health surcharge through their salary if the charge is not already covered by the NHS trust offering the job.
The Tories have already announced a fast-track visa route to attract specialists in science, engineering and technology.
Attracting talent while controlling immigration numbers
Home Secretary Priti Patel said an Australian-style points-based system would allow Britain to control the numbers coming into the country while remaining open to essential professions such as nursing. Immigration is been fundamental for maintaining staffing numbers in the NHS.
“That means the best of both worlds – attracting talent from around the world so our NHS continues to provide brilliant service while ensuring that it isn’t put under strain by opening Britain’s borders to the entire world,” she said.
However shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Tories were “tying themselves in knots” over immigration.
“They use dog whistle anti-migrant rhetoric but are forced to accept we need migrant workers for key sectors, not just the NHS, but many more besides,” she said.
Lib Dems - new visa is a nurse tax on free EU staff
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the visa fees amounted to a “nurse tax” on staff from the EU who could currently come to Britain for free.
“The Conservatives have effectively created a new nurse tax. It is an insult to the thousands of people who dedicate their lives coming to work for our health service from the EU,” she said.