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OPINION: Should More Be Done To Help Migrant Workers Saving Our NHS?

THE NHS was founded in 1948, delivering a healthcare system that many countries around the world are sincerely jealous of. While not perfect, the NHS has definitely saved countless lives by delivering accessible and affordable healthcare to millions of UK residents. 

What a lot of people don’t realise about the NHS is that it is made up of thousands of overseas workers. 

Current calculations suggest there are around 170,000 people working in the NHS that have migrated from different countries. That’s right, these people have come to the UK seeking asylum, and contributed to saving many lives. 

The topic of migrant workers in the NHS has always been a big one. 

However, the past year has shone a brighter light on it, highlighting that many migrant workers aren’t getting the help they deserve. They’ve been on the frontline, putting themselves at risk, but are still living with fears and doubts of being deported. It’s led to many people campaigning for migrant workers to get more help from the government, easing their fears and allowing them to work with less stress. But, what’s currently being done and what could be done to improve things?

THE CURRENT RULES

A couple of years ago, the PM announced a new NHS visa, which was specifically targeted at people coming to the UK to fork for the National Health Service. Credit where it’s due, this did make it easier for doctors and nurses from other countries to work in the UK.

Fast forward to 2020, and the Government also extended everyone’s NHS work visas by a year with no fees attached. 

The problem is that this extension won’t be extended yet again. So, hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in the UK will have to spend a lot of money re-applying for their visas. Of course, as anyone that’s applied for a visa knows, the application process is never simple. 

It can take many weeks, adding to the stress that these poor healthcare workers are feeling. Thus, there are calls for a lot more to be done to help migrant NHS workers relax and not worry about visa applications being denied, etc. 

PROPOSED SOLOUTION   

Thankfully, a solution has already been proposed. Last year, the Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill 2019-21 was put forward in parliament. 

Long story short, this bill wanted to grant indefinite leave to remain for asylum seekers that came to work in the NHS. The second reading of this bill was supposed to happen in January of this year, but it was delayed due to COVID safety rules. 

As a result, many healthcare workers are left wondering what on earth is going to happen, or if they can continue working in this country. 

Ideally, this bill will be passed, granting indefinite leave to remain for people who truly deserve it. 

Bills like this are in place in many countries across Europe that recognise the work that migrant workers put in on the frontline. Put it this way, without immigrants working in the NHS, the entire system would literally fall apart. 

It is certainly not a controversial statement to suggest that more should be done for migrant NHS workers. Steps have been made, but there needs to be more assurances from the Government that they can stay here and work without worrying about being deported. 

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