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Theresa May faces Cabinet rebellion over visas for foreign medics

2 min read

Theresa May is facing a Cabinet rift over visa restrictions that mean the NHS misses out on hundreds of foreign medics.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has thrown his weight behind the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s calls for a temporary exemption for doctors and nurses to a cap on skilled workers from outside the EU. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark are also ready to back their Cabinet colleagues, according to the Daily Mail.  

The Prime Minister refused to relax the rules when the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd asked for the restrictions to be eased.

But she faces a backbench revolt a dozens of Conservative MPs signed a letter calling for the cap to be lifted. 

The letter, written by South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen, said “forcing the country to make a binary choice between professionals needed to grow the economy and professionals needed to staff our health system”. 

It adds: “Without urgent intervention, we believe our NHS is heading towards a perfect storm.”

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Tory chair of the Commons health select committee, said the visa cap on doctors “makes no sense at all”.

She said: “It should be lifted immediately, and in a way that does not disadvantage other skilled groups, such as scientists.

“Our immigration policy should be designed to benefit the UK – not leave science, healthcare and industry with a shortfall of vital skilled workers.” 

The annual quota of 20,700 for Tier 2 visas available to skilled workers outside the EU is part of the government’s manifesto pledge to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year. 

Hunt has announced plans for five new medical schools to try and address a shortfall of doctors in the NHS by 2025. He is calling for doctors and nurses to be removed from the Tier 2 cap until the newly-trained students enter the workforce. 

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