Special visa will allow overseas medics to work in NHS

UK health minister says fast-tracked visa application plans for medics will apply to Scotland.

A visa allowing doctors, nurses and health professionals from overseas to work in the NHS is to be introduced.

UK health minister Helen Whately said the move would allow fast-tracked access for healthcare staff and would apply to Scotland.

It comes after the UK Government last month announced a new points-based immigration system, with points awarded for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions.

Responding to a question from West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, the minister said: “This government will be introducing an NHS visa which will offer reduced fees and fast-tracked access for overseas doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to come to work in the UK.

“The Home Secretary (Priti Patel) will be outlining detailed plans in due course.”

Mr Bowie raised concerns over a shortage of nurses at NHS Grampian and asked if the new visa system would apply in Scotland.

He said: “In Scotland we have an increasing GPs shortage crisis and in NHS Grampian, where £1m had to be spent on agency nurses this winter, we have an increasing nurses crisis.

“So, there are obviously those that are understandably concerned that the changes in immigration rules will have an adverse effect. Can (Ms Whately) confirm that the new NHS visa will be applicable in Scotland was well?”

Ms Whately responded: “Yes, I can absolutely give (Mr Bowie) that assurance. The NHS visa will be available for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals coming to work in the NHS across the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new visa would not, however, apply for nurses and care workers in the social care sector.

Mr Hunt said: “Can I congratulate the department on securing this NHS visa, but as the minister knows it does not apply to nurses and care workers in the social care sector.

“What is the department’s assessment of the gap there will be in the social care workforce as a result of this new immigration policy and how are discussions going with the Home Office and Number 10 on that issue?”

Ms Whately replied: “I am well aware of concerns in the social care sector and particularly in areas where there are vacancy rates.

“It’s important that employers make sure that they are taking the steps that they can take to make sure that social care jobs are attractive and, of course, should be well paid.

“I recognise as well a role for government in this, supporting the role of working in social care and, overall, making sure we come together and fix the social care crisis.”

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