The UK government must urgently streamline the post-Brexit visa bureaucracy for foreign GPs looking to work in the UK, to help tackle chronic doctor shortages, medical leaders have warned.
Given that brexit ended the free movement of labor with the EU, the UK has relied on more foreign non-EU doctors. As a result, 48 per cent of all current GPs require visas, according to data from the British Medical Association.
Under current rules, people GP Internship it must pay a fee of up to £1,500 to become an authorized sponsor of skilled migrant workers who need visas, a process that medical groups said was more bureaucratic than financial.
Dr Kieran Sharrock, from the BMA’s England GPs committee, said the country’s general medical practices had lost the equivalent of more than 1,900 full-time fully qualified GPs since 2015 and the government needed urgency to make it easier for foreign doctors to stay in the UK. after you have completed your training.
“With around half of England’s doctors subject to these visa restrictions, it is potentially a huge waste of skills, time and money if these doctors are forced to leave general practice or the NHS because of a problem that is so easy to solve. ”
Newly qualified GPs from abroad face a unique bureaucratic hurdle because they must obtain a two-year “Tier 2” skilled worker visa after their three-year training visa expires, placing additional burdens on practice GPs. The problem does not arise for other medical specialties, which take at least five years, after which all newly qualified doctors can apply for permanent status.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said in November that the government would consider whether an “umbrella organization” could be created to simplify the visa registration process and remove the burden on individual GP practices, but no changes were agreed. .
Sharrock said a solution was urgently needed as GPs faced a backlog of patients requiring treatment following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In November, the immigration minister said he was going to fix this by looking seriously at sponsoring an umbrella body and removing the red tape from individual practices at a time when his focus must be on treating patients.”
He added: “The government needs to do something good about this and resolve it immediately, so we don’t have a haemorrhage of more qualified GPs when patients need them most.”
The Royal College of GPs, which represents a network of 54,000 general practitioners, is also calling on the government to fix the visa problem.
in a open letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, signed last October by more than 4,000 GPs, the Royal College called the system “absurd” and called for a “national solution” to prevent more internationally qualified doctors from working in the UK .
Kamila Hawthorne, President of the Royal College, welcomed the government’s openness to setting up an umbrella organization for trainee visas and expressed hope that steps would soon be taken to see it through.
“Addressing these bureaucratic barriers is vital so that foreign GPs can easily join the GP workforce, delivering much-needed care to patients and helping to alleviate intense labor shortages in practice. generally,” he said.
A survey carried out by the Royal College last year found that around 30 per cent of international trainees had considered not working as a GP in the NHS due to difficulties with the visa process.
Kim Vowden, a partner at the Kingsley Napley law firm, which specializes in immigration cases, said the visa regime was complex for small entities, such as a GP practice, and a burden for them to keep up with. with policy updates and processes.
“Getting a sponsor license is usually straightforward, but operating it correctly and fulfilling the duties that come with it can be difficult for companies trying to do it themselves,” he said.
Private healthcare has also been affected by the regulations. Dr Shaima Villait, president of the Federation of Independent Physicians, said the cost and red tape around recruitment was a particular challenge for smaller independent practices, as the private sector took on more work while the NHS grappled with pandemic-induced delays.
He added that the difficulties had only been exacerbated by Brexit. “We had a lot of people from Europe working in the medical sector and in the private sector and a lot of people left.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said it recognized the importance of foreign doctors in growing the GP workforce. “We are working with the Home Office to increase the number of GP practices registered as Home Office sponsors,” a spokesperson added.