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Hospital trust chief hits out at immigration policy for blocking recruitment of EU doctors

A city hospital boss has urged ministers to prevent a top level staffing crisis by easing rules blocking NHS trusts from hiring EU doctors.

David Loughton

David Loughton, chief executive of the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said all 14 of his applications to hire foreign doctors had been turned down due to Home Office regulations.

Under the current rules the number of ‘Tier 2’ visas for professionals are capped, meaning EU-based doctors must earn more than £75,000 before they are allowed to work in the UK.

In a letter asking city MPs to raise the issue with the Home Secretary, Mr Loughton said the staffing shortfall had worsened winter pressures at New Cross Hospital, resulting in a ‘higher cost, lower quality service’.

He said new visa regulations had 'ground to a halt' a highly successful recruitment programme that had increased recruitment of non-training grade doctors by 45 per cent and saved the NHS £1.3 million, mostly in agency fees.

"As a consequence every single one of our trust’s applications for December 2017 and January 2018 have been rejected, totalling 14 applications and it is unlikely that any will be approved until the new annual round commences in April 2018," he said.

"This creates an immediate recruitment pressure, forces us back to the use of variable quality locum doctors and imposes a financial pressure of approximately £0.6 million annually in our trust alone.

"The impact for patients has been stated previously and cannot be underestimated.

"Assuming that 500 applications have been rejected nationally, the exact figure being known to the Home Office, then the annual additional cost of employing locum / agency doctors could be £20 million NHS wide.

"Thus the direct impact of this self-inflicted problem, compounding the effect of winter pressure as reflected in deteriorating A&E waiting times and NHS bed availability, results in a higher cost, lower quality service."

Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden has written to Amber Rudd asking for a change in the rules ‘to allow hospitals to recruit the doctors they need.

He wrote: "The NHS has always relied to some degree on doctors and nurses from overseas.

"They have done a fantastic job in caring for patients. For Government immigration policy – which is controlled by ministers – to be resulting in a situation where the effects are as Mr Loughton describes is indeed a self-inflicted problem causing harm to our ability to deliver the best possible care at the best value for money."

"Can I ask you as a matter of urgency to consult with the Secretary of State for Health and with NHS Trust chief executives to make whatever changes are needed so that hospitals can recruit the staff they need to treat patients?

"To have in place an immigration policy which inhibits dealing with them is damaging for the NHS."