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Theresa May’s easing of immigration cap will not fix NHS shortages, warn ministers

3 min read

Theresa May’s plan to ease immigration caps to help fix NHS shortages will not be enough, ministers have warned.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Sunday that he was taking a "fresh look" at the Tier 2 visa cap which limits the numbers of skilled non-EU workers allowed to enter the country.

The Prime Minister is reportedly backing the move to allow more doctors to enter the country, but ministers are concerned that she will not go far enough to deal with chronic NHS staff shortages.

Mrs May has previously blocked attempts by Cabinet colleagues to water down the strict visa limits.

A government source told The Times that many in the Cabinet were pushing the Prime Minister to go further.

They said: "Mrs May only wants to deal with the problem in front of her and do as little as possible. If that happens there will be an impasse."

There is currently a limit of 20,700 Tier 2 visas - a figure set by Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary.

But figures show that, between December and March,1,518 doctors and 361 other healthcare professionals were denied visas to enter the UK so as not to breach the strict cap.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said yesterday that the government was "monitoring the situation".

They added: "Visa routes are always under review and we are monitoring the situation in relation to visa applications for doctors, including month limits through the Tier 2 visa route.

"The Government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK and we do keep visa routes under review.

"However, it’s important that our immigration systems works in the national interest and ensures that employers look first to the resident labour market before recruiting from overseas."

CBI UK policy director Matthew Fell meanwhile warned that the current system is "damaging global competitiveness".

"Unless the government removes all shortage roles, including engineers and software developers as well as doctors and nurses, from the cap, companies will continue to struggle to get the people they need, damaging global competitiveness," the business chief added.

"A system that forces a binary choice between staffing our NHS or growing the UK economy is clearly broken. We need both."


The move comes amid an appeal from the Royal College of General Practitioners, who have urgedthe Home Secretary to place GPs on the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list so that more can be recruited from abroad.

The professional body said the Government’s "hostile environment" policy was creating a "desperate" lack of family doctors.

RGCP chair Helen Stokes-Lambard said ifting the visa cap would be vital if ministers wanted to keep a promise to increase the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020.

"Clear targets to increase recruitment to general practice have been set out in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, but these look increasingly difficult to achieve," she warned.

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