What steps he is taking with the Home Secretary to fast-track immigration applications from doctors and nurses who want to work in the NHS.
Scotland has an increasing crisis of GP shortages, and in NHS Grampian—where £1 million had to be spent on agency nurses this winter—we have an increasing nursing crisis. Some people are understandably concerned that the changes to immigration rules will have an adverse effect. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the new NHS visa will be applicable in Scotland as well?
Yes, I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. The NHS visa will be available for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals coming to work in the NHS across the whole United Kingdom.
As we all know, nurses, midwives, paramedics and physiotherapists are highly skilled roles, and the Government have been clear that they meet the immigration skills threshold. What steps is the Department taking to dispel the level of fake news on the subject, and to encourage the brightest and best from around the world to apply for these important roles?
The salary threshold for people coming to work in the NHS in the roles that my hon. Friend mentioned are linked to NHS pay bands, and applicants will have more than enough points to apply under the new immigration system. We are working with NHS employers to encourage international applicants. I thank my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity once again to dispel any myths in this area.
The Minister will have to try a bit harder, because the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is certainly very concerned that its positions are not going to be covered. Others, such as care assistants, are also below the salary threshold. We are talking about vital roles. There are 100,000 vacancies across the NHS, so will the Minister go back to the Home Office and ask staff to look at the detail of these proposals so that they do not make the NHS staffing crisis any worse than it already is?
The NHS visa is in place. There are also plans in place to ensure that we have international recruitment alongside investment in a home-grown workforce, and that we increase retention rates and the number of returners to provide the NHS with the staff it needs.
Many skilled health professionals in this country who have been granted refugee status are finding it difficult to get accreditation from the regulating bodies. May I commend to the Minister the healthcare overseas professionals programme of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, and invite her to visit that trust? Will she have discussions with the regulating bodies to try to speed up the process for these people, who have the skills and want to work, and whom we need?
Work has already been done by the regulating bodies. For instance, we are already speeding up the process for nurses from overseas who want to come here to work in the NHS. I would be very happy to have further correspondence with the right hon. Member about the specific problem, and would be delighted if he could send me an invitation to make the visit that he mentioned.
I congratulate the Department on securing the NHS visa but, as the Minister knows, it does not apply to nurses and care workers in the social care sector. What is the Department’s assessment of the gap there will be in the social care workforce as a result of this new immigration policy, and how are discussions going with the Home Office and No. 10 on that issue?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I am well aware of concerns in the social care sector, particularly in areas where there are higher vacancy rates. It is important that employers make sure that they are taking the steps they can take to make sure that social care jobs are attractive and, of course, well paid, as they should be. I recognise as well a role for Government in this, supporting the role of working in social care, and overall making sure that we come together and fix the social care crisis.