Independent and private sector hospital and care sector representatives have welcomed an official decision that should make it simpler and faster for migrant healthcare workers to continue to work in the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said this week that a “Health and Care Visa” will be launched this summer, creating a new fast-track visa route for eligible health and care professionals.
They also reveaed more information on how the exemption to the Immigration Health Surcharge will work for health and care staff, who will now be permanently exempt from this charge.
The move was welcomed by David Hare, Chief Executive of The Independent Healthcare Providers Network, which represents independent and private sector hospital and care providers.
Hare said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the vital contribution migrant healthcare workers, including those in the independent sector, make in keeping the country safe.
“We are therefore pleased that the Government has recognised this and have rightly granted overseas healthcare staff who work in independent providers delivering NHS services exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge, as well as a reduced visa fee.
“This is something IHPN have long been calling for and these measures announced today will play a significant role in ensuring all healthcare providers can recruit and retain the staff they need to deliver the best possible care for patients.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the UK is “indebted” to overseas health and care professionals for their “tremendous contributions”, not just throughout the pandemic crisis, but for the “vital role they play year-round”.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock added: “Our health and care system has always had a proud tradition of welcoming overseas staff to work, train and live in the UK, and I’m proud that the NHS is a destination of choice for talented people from around the world.
“The unwavering commitment, skill and compassion staff have shown during the fight against this deadly virus is nothing short of phenomenal, and the reimbursement of the immigration health surcharge recognises the enormous contribution of those who have come to the UK to work in health and social care.”
The legislation needed to open this new route is laid in Parliament this week and health professionals will be able to apply from August.
The new Health and Care Visa will come with a reduced visa application fee compared to that paid by other skilled workers, including exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Health and care professionals applying on this route can also expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment.
Those working in health and social care who do not qualify for the Health and Care Visa will still be able to claim a reimbursement from the Immigration Health Surcharge if they have paid this on or after 31 March.