Theresa May accused of 'U-turn' as she lifts cap on number of foreign doctors in NHS
Theresa May has been accused of a "U-turn" after ditching a policy she introduced limiting the number of non-EU doctors in the NHS.
Downing Street confirmed that the so-called 'Tier 2' visa cap on skilled migrants will no longer apply to doctors and nurses amid fears of a staff shortage.
The Prime Minister introduced the policy, which limits the number of overseas professionals allowed to work in Britain to 20,700 a year, when she was Home Secretary.
But she has agreed to relax the rules after being lobbied by doctors' leaders and new Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Mrs May's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister will in due course be setting out our long-term plan for the NHS. An important part of that is making sure the NHS has more highly-skilled doctors and nurses to deliver outstanding patient care.
"What we will be announcing is that doctors are being excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas. That means more staff on our hospital wards, higher standards and safer patient care."
Asked if the Prime Minister had caved in to pressure, her spokesman said: "Absolutely not. The Prime Minister spoke to the Liaison Committee about the need to bring forward a long-term plan for the NHS. There has been demand in this area, we are responding to that demand and making sure the NHS has the staff that it needs."
He also insisted that the Government remained "absolutely committed" to being net migration down below 100,000 a year.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "This is a most welcome U-turn on a policy that has undermined the needs of the NHS and the well-being of our nation for far too long.
"Labour has consistently questioned the logic of turning away qualified medical professionals from an NHS with thousands of vacancies.
"As the new Home Secretary does away with one of the most ridiculous parts of Theresa Mays 'hostile environment policy', it has never been clearer just how isolated and powerless the PM has become in enforcing her failed net migration target.
"The NHS is not the only sector facing shortages, and the Windrush scandal has shown just how far reaching the consequences of this Government's immigration policies have been.
"It's time the Tories put an end to the 'hostile environment' for good."