New fast-track visa for EU healthcare workers excludes social care
Doctors, nurses and other skilled healthcare workers from the EU will be able to apply for a fast-track health and care visa to work in the UK after Brexit, the UK Government has revealed as it outlined more details of how the post-Brexit immigration system will work.
The healthcare scheme will have lower fees than the standard visa, a decision within three weeks and a lower minimum salary of £20,480, while healthcare workers will also be exempt from paying the £400 immigration health surcharge to use NHS services.
However, concerns have been raised over the exclusion of social care workers from the health and care visa, which will not apply to care staff because they are classed as unskilled.
Home secretary Priti Patel the new immigration system would ensure the UK attracted “the best and brightest global talent”.
She said: “The British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based immigration system.
“Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021.
“Britain is open for business and ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent.”
But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was “disappointed” with the new visa.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Once again, we are disappointed to see the Government’s plans for the UK’s future immigration system falling short of what is required to meet the workforce needs of the health and social care sectors, now and in the future.
“The Government is ignoring our concern that we need an appropriate immigration route for social care workers.
“Arbitrary salary thresholds will prevent key workers from working in the UK, which will directly impact patient care.
“The pandemic has revealed how reliant the NHS is on good social care and vice versa – they cannot be viewed as separate services.
“The care system has been heavily reliant on international staff, and the proposals continue to ignore the significant risk to this sector, and therefore the entire health and care system across the UK.”
Scottish Labour warned that the exclusion of social care workers could put Scotland’s ability to tackle COVID at risk.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "The omission of care workers from the new health and care visas is outrageous.
“It will be felt acutely in Scotland thanks to the SNP government's failures in workforce planning.
“This underlines the need for a national care service with dignity and respect for both staff and service users at its heart.
"Scotland could still be tackling COVID-19, and will certainly still be feeling its aftershocks, when these rules come into effect in January.
“If this glaring omission is not addressed urgently, we risk seriously undermining our ability not just to care for our elderly and those in need, but to tackle major public health emergencies like COVID-19."
Scottish Care chief executive Donald Macaskill, who has been calling for social care to be recognised as a shortage occupation, called it a “slap in the face” for the care sector and said it reflected a “shameful lack of value” of social care.
The visa forms part of the new immigration system that will apply to EU citizens from next year.
From 1 January 2021 EU citizens will be treated the same as those from the rest of the world and will need to apply for a visa to work in the UK.
The system will be based on points, where people must gain 70 points to be allowed to work in the UK.
As a starting point, they must be able to speak English, be skilled and have a job offer from an ‘approved employer’.
Further points are gained for earning over £25,600, for working in a shortage area or for a relevant PhD or qualifications in a STEM subject.
A new graduate visa will also be introduced from summer 2021 that allows students graduating with an undergraduate or master’s degree from a UK university to stay for two years after graduation and for those awarded a PhD to stay for three.