Workforce crisis in health and social care - have the changes to the Health and Care Worker Visa had any impact?

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28 July, 2022

The Health and Social Care Select Committee published a damning report on 25th of July 2022. The Workforce: recruitment, training and retention report outlines the scale of the workforce crisis that is facing the NHS in England. New research outlines the scale of the crisis:

  • A shortage of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives;
  • Workforce projections show that an extra 475,000 jobs are needed in health and an extra 490,000 jobs in social care by the early part of the coming decade; and
  • In April, hospital waiting lists reached a record high of almost 6.5 million.

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the Health and Social Care Committee said: "Persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, a situation compounded by the absence of a long-term plan by the government to tackle it." He went on further to state: "We now face the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and social care with still no idea of the number of additional doctors, nurses and other professionals we need."

  • In response to significant staffing issues and the negative impact the healthcare sector has faced following Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Office established a set of temporary changes to the immigration rules required for the Health and Care Worker Visa. This makes it easier for UK businesses to hire overseas health care worker. The changes have been welcomed by the sector and widen the list of eligible job roles that are required to apply for the Visa, with additions made to the Government's Shortage Occupation List.

The changes were made on 15 February, lasting for a period of 12 months, enabling overseas medical professionals to work in the UK for the NHS, an NHS supplier or within the adult social care sector. Those eligible included qualified doctors, nurses, health professionals, adult social care professionals, social care workers, health care assistants; and home care workers

What are the main requirements?

  • There is still the requirement for employer to hold a Sponsor Licence, issued by the Home Office, in order to sponsor a prospective candidate.
  • If you already hold a licence enabling you to sponsor workers under the Health and Care Worker Visa, you can then issue a candidate with a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • The minimum salary is at least £20,480 or £10.10 per hour or the 'going rate' for the role;
  • The candidate will need to meet the English language requirements;

What benefit do these changes present?

  • Immediate family members will be able to join candidates in the UK
  • A reduction in visa application fees
  • An expedited decision - typically within 3 weeks
  • No requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge

Overall, this decision is welcomed by those in the healthcare sector. In theory, these changes will allow UK employers to fill labour shortage gaps in a cheaper, easier and expedited manner. However, there are questions regarding whether the Government has gone far enough with this recent initiative. Especially given the temporary nature of the changes, and whether this will generate a lasting positive impact is yet to be seen.

Clearly, this latest report indicates that despite the various changes the Government has made to its recruitment efforts, they have fallen short of the mark. If you are in the health and social care sector, it is important to be aware of these recent changes when utilising the Health and Social Care Visa and consider whether it is still a viable option for recruitment.

At Forbes we can support employers in obtaining a sponsor licence and manage the visa application process on your behalf. Contact Amy Stokes, Head of Business Immigration for further information.

Alternatively, contact Harry Hazelwood in our Employment & HR department.

Learn more about our Business Immigration department here

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