Unions demand extension of free visa renewal scheme for international health workers

  • Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Professional News
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The BMA is joining other health and care unions in demanding that international staff have their visas automatically renewed free of charge to ensure they are able to stay in the UK to help tackle the second wave of COVID-19.

Between the end of March and 1 October, health and care staff whose visas were expiring had them automatically renewed for 12 months free of charge.

Now the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison have written to the Home Secretary asking that she intervenes and renews the extension as a matter of urgency.

The letter, signed by BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair and Unison head of health Sara Gorton, states: “It is clear we are now entering a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. With daily cases reaching record highs we need to do as much as possible to retain the skills and experience of our talented overseas colleagues as we have an incredibly tough few months ahead. We still owe these workers a huge debt of gratitude and the very least we can do is provide them with some certainty over their immigration status for the remainder of the pandemic.

“We are calling on you as Home Secretary to intervene to renew the visa extension as a matter of urgency, on a rolling basis for the duration of the pandemic, to reflect the ongoing crisis and to demonstrate that our thankfulness for the sacrifice of these workers has not diminished.”

Commenting, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Our international health and care colleagues have worked tirelessly and selflessly in recent months, providing care and support as we all faced unprecedented challenges. This often came at the expense of their own health and wellbeing, and as we know, in too many cases, we have seen staff who came from overseas to look after people in this country tragically lose their own lives to this dreadful virus.

“These efforts must absolutely not go ignored. The least we owe these committed staff is some certainty over their future in this country, while also ensuring talented staff are able to continue contributing their much-needed skills to the health and care sector through what look to be some intensely difficult months ahead.”