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Labour welcomes government U-turn on letting vital NHS workers come to Britain

Lamiat Sabin reports from Westminster

LABOUR today welcomed a government U-turn on immigration rules to allow more non-EU skilled workers such as doctors and nurses into Britain.

The Home Office is expected to confirm today that foreign doctors and nurses will be excluded from the government’s visa cap on Tier 2 visas for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area.

The cap, which was introduced by Theresa May when she was home secretary, sets a limit for all non-EU skilled workers at 20,700 people a year.

But NHS England reported in February that 35,000 nurse vacancies and nearly 10,000 doctor posts were going unfilled.

Saffron Cordery, of trade body NHS Providers, told BBC Radio 4 Today programme the change was “absolutely the right decision” and will be a “huge relief for trusts up and down the country” that struggle to recruit enough staff.

On Tuesday, it was reported by the Financial Times that 2,360 visa applications by doctors from outside the EEA were refused in a five-month period, apparently because of the cap.

NHS bosses warned in April that immigration rules were hampering their ability to find workers after visas for 100 Indian doctors were refused.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “This is a most welcome U-turn on a policy that has undermined the needs of the NHS and the wellbeing of our nation for far too long.

“Labour has consistently questioned the logic of turning away qualified medical professionals from an NHS with thousands of vacancies.

“As the new Home Secretary does away with one of the most ridiculous parts of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, it has never been clearer just how isolated and powerless the PM has become in enforcing her failed net migration target."

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