On Thursday (December 19), the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed plans to introduce a new fast-track visa for qualified doctors and nurses from countries around the world, including India.
Johnson had spoken of an “NHS visa” earlier. While on campaign ahead of the December 12 elections, he had referred to the Australian-style points-based visa policy that gives preference to skilled people.
The NHS visa was confirmed during the Queen’s Speech in the British Parliament on Thursday as a way to address the shortage of workers in the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
What is the need for fast-track entry?
The government’s “NHS People Plan” mentions the “significant staff shortages” at many places. An increase in the numbers of nurses is the “single biggest and most urgent” need of the NHS.
The Plan mentions the aim to increase the nursing workforce by over 40,000 by 2024, and to reduce vacancies to 5 per cent by 2028. The Plan underlines the need to increase international recruitment in the short and medium term, among other measures.
“Steps will be taken to grow and support the National Health Service’s workforce and a new visa will ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom,” the Queen’s Speech said.
“A modern, fair, points-based immigration system will welcome skilled workers from across the world to contribute to the United Kingdom’s economy, communities and public services,” the Speech noted.
How will the policy work?
Under the new policy, qualified doctors, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals with a job offer from the NHS and who have been trained to a recognised standard will be offered fast-track entry, reduced visa fees, and dedicated support to come to the UK.
Medical practitioners and nurses are among the categories of jobs listed in the UK shortage occupation list. Other categories include social workers, graphic designers, musicians and artists.
According to the UK government’s visa and immigration division, an Indian who has been offered a skilled occupation for which there is a shortage of workers in the UK can apply for a work visa under the Tier 2 (General) visa category.
The visa application fee to be able to work for up to three years is £ 464 (Rs 43,000), and for more than three years, £ 928 (Rs 86,000).
What is the situation at NHS now?
A Reuters report said out of the over 1.2 million (12 lakh) NHS employees, roughly 1,53,000 are non-British, and over 52,000 are Asians.
The thinktank Nuffield Trust noted that the number of nurses and health visitors leaving the NHS increased by over 25 per cent between 2012 and 2018. As per their report, the number of non-EU doctor registrants in 2018 numbered roughly 5,200; this was in addition to over 2,000 EU doctor registrants.
The post-Brexit scenario for the NHS may be grim, since it will restrict the movement of a number of doctors from the EU into Britain.
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