TRADE UNIONS and charities have warned that visa rules are forcing migrant NHS workers to return to their countries of origin which will adversely affect Britain’s response to the second wave of coronavirus.
Unison has urged the government to stop forcing out key workers in the health and care sectors and to stop barring potential new ones from coming to the UK.
According to a recent Commons Library briefing, the nationality of 13.8 per cent of NHS staff is not British and over 67,000 (5.5 per cent) NHS staff in England are EU nationals.
Minnie Rahman, the public affairs and campaigns manager at Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said that the government should take fair and practical action, and grant free visa extensions and the right to stay to all key workers.
“Limited visa extensions made earlier this year caused devastating confusion and did not protect key workers from the stress of the immigration system,” she told The Guardian.
Reports said that key healthcare workers who are still in the UK are struggling to renew their visas due to delays and prohibitive costs. Many have become overstayers which will further hamper their ability to renew their visas.
Earlier this year the Home Office announced that NHS and care workers whose visas were due to expire in the next few months would have them extended for a year free of charge.
But, this concession only applied to about 3,000 workers, and left out thousands of care workers and NHS staff including low paid healthcare assistants, hospital cleaners and porters, reported The Guardian.
Doctors Association UK has drafted a letter, signed by 1,660 doctors and other healthcare workers protesting about the treatment of the Egyptian consultant cardiologist Dr Basem Enany, who became critically ill from Covid complications.
Before he fell sick he had treated many patients at York hospital but he and his family fear for their future in the UK because the Home Office has not yet confirmed what will happen to them after Enany’s visa expires next month.
Christina McAnea,assistant general secretary, Unison has said that shutting overseas health and care workers out of the visa extension scheme is a shortsighted and dangerous.