‘Shameful’ treatment of health and care workers comes amid 122,000 shortage in England
Migrant healthcare workers are having to return to their countries of origin, potentially hampering Britain’s response to the second wave of coronavirus, after the expiry of visas to support the NHS, trade unions and charities have warned.
Unison has called on the government to stop forcing out key workers in the health and care sectors and to stop barring potential new ones from coming to work here.
Along with key workers forced to return to their home countries, many who are still in the UK are struggling to renew their visas due to delays and prohibitive costs and have become overstayers as a result, something which can further hamper their ability to renew their visas.
Unison says that the policy is having a serious impact during the second wave of the pandemic and at a time when there are 122,000 vacancies in the health and care sectors in England.
Doctors Association UK has called for indefinite leave to remain for migrant healthcare workers and raised concerns about visa processing delays.
It 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.
A recent Commons Library briefing states: “Over 67,000 NHS staff in England are EU nationals – 5.5% of all staff. Overall, 13.8% of NHS staff say that their nationality is not British.”
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 so they could “focus on fighting coronavirus”. However, 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.
Arun Panabaka, 37, is a senior nursing assistant from India. He is highly qualified with diplomas in health and social care and public health and more than a decade of experience in healthcare. He came to the UK in 2019 on a spouse visa but his work permit ran out on 12 October this year. He was unable to renew it because his role was not on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list and returned to India with his wife.