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Covid-19: Extend visas for international staff to help fight second wave, health unions urge

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4041 (Published 16 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4041

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  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

Health and care unions have written to the home secretary calling for an extension to a scheme that automatically extended the visas of doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

Under the scheme, which ran 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.1 The BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, and Unison have now written to Priti Patel asking her to renew the scheme as a matter of urgency to help the NHS cope with the 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,” the letter said. “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.”

The groups also called on the government to refund any health or care workers who had already paid to have their visas to be extended since 1 October and asked that any process is streamlined to ensure these staff can prioritise patient care.

Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said that international health and care staff had worked tirelessly and selflessly in recent months. “The least we owe these committed staff is some certainty over their future in this country,” he said, “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.”

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