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Government set to relax immigration laws to ease NHS workforce crisis

The government is set to relax its immigration rules to allow more foreign doctors to come and work in the NHS in order to help tackle widespread workforce shortages, especially post-Brexit.

Ministers have reportedly agreed to expand the current limit on non-EU doctors allowed to come and work in Britain each year from 1,500 to as many as 3,000 doctors, as reported by the Guardian.

The amount of time EU-trained doctors are allowed to work for could also be extended to three years instead of two under changes to the medical training initiative.

The reforms come as the government faces pressure to explain how a post-Brexit immigration system will help alleviate deepening shortages.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the net migration total of 74,000 EU nationals entering the country is the lowest figure since 2012.

NHS England’s latest board papers identified workforce pressures as the single biggest internal risk for trusts this winter as the NHS prepares to cope with surging demand over the winter period.

The King’s Fund echoed this stance in its briefing published ahead of the NHS’s long-term plan, announcing that the health service’s staffing challenges have become so stark they now present a bigger threat to the future.

Matt Hancock has reportedly been lobbying the Home Office for months, and ministers have now decided the NHS shortages are extensive enough to lift the cap – despite the potential risk of provoking a row over immigration.

The latest performance statistics published yesterday by NHS Improvement showed that the total vacancies for doctors and nurses stands at over 100,000, which NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson called a “once-in-a-generation workforce shortage problem.”

The government’s move, which was revealed by The Guardian, is likely to be unveiled in the NHS’s long-term plan due in December after MPs vote on the UK’s Brexit deal on 11 December.

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Image credit - Spotmatik


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