As the NHS faces winter pressure, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine is bidding to grant migrants working in the NHS indefinite leave to remain in honour of their commitment during the pandemic.
Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine, who is pushing the second reading of her Bill [22 October] to make law the indefinite leave to remain for health and social care staff, warned “if someone is prepared to risk their life for this country, they must be allowed to live in it.”
The intervention comes amidst increasing concerns the NHS is facing a winter crisis. Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said staff feared it could be “one of the most difficult winters the NHS has ever faced.”
The latest NHS statistics reveal the extent of the problem facing overstretched staff. In England, there are 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses while across Scotland over 4,800 nursing and midwifery vacancies are empty.
Dr Krizun Loganathan, a doctor from Malaysia, has worked in South Wales and Merseyside. Despite working in a busy intensive care unit during the pandemic, he is faced with the prospect of a bill of more than £3,000 on top of lawyer fees to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Describing how he and many migrant workers in the NHS feel as they face the prospect of a winter crisis, Dr Krizun Loganathan explained being “tired, isolated and still facing visa related expenses is leaving many immigrant HCW’s utterly demoralised or worse still, with no choice but to leave the NHS altogether."
He added: “Passing the ILR bill will lift a massive psychological and financial burden off the shoulders of these vital NHS workers. But most importantly, it would be a huge practical step in making sure we don’t lose the staff required to see us out of this crisis.”
MPs from Labour, Conservative, SNP, Green, Alliance and the Liberal Democrats have backed plans to extend indefinite leave to remain. The public can add their voice to the campaign by visiting www.libdems.org.uk/covidheroes.
Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine, said:
“Like other NHS and care staff, hundreds of thousands of people from across the world have been on the frontline of the pandemic. Those heroes deserve thanks for putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure we get the care we need.
“The NHS is now facing a looming winter crisis with a black hole of vacancies to fill and record waiting times. Once again we will turn to stretched health and care staff to take care of our loved ones.
“It is unimaginable that people fighting for us are being left with the stress and anxiety about whether or not their visa will be extended. Ministers must give them certainty or risk fuelling the winter crisis with an exodus of staff.
“The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to give all foreign nationals working in the NHS and social care indefinite leave to remain. If someone is prepared to risk their life for this country, they must be allowed to live in it.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association, said:
“After the past 20 months, when skilled international healthcare workers have put themselves in harm’s way in the fight against Covid-19 on the frontline – and with a disproportionate number having already lost their lives to the virus – it is only right that the Government takes tangible action to support this significant and vital segment of the NHS workforce.
“Giving these colleagues indefinite leave to remain allows them to continue working with certainty, offering their invaluable contributions to the NHS at such a critical moment when we face the greatest care backlog ever and amid widespread workforce shortages.
“It would also begin to demonstrate the country’s appreciation of their hard work and sacrifice during the pandemic, when the UK has faced the highest death toll in Western Europe and continues to battle infection rates and hospitalisations far higher than comparable nations.”
Dolin Bhagawati, the interim co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, added:
“170,000 NHS staff are from a non-British nationality.
“These are dedicated professionals who have performed heroic service over the last 18 months. Yet they live with the potential for deportation over their heads at any instant – as happened to Consultant Cardiologist Dr Basem Enany in late 2020 when he was stuck by COVID when his family faced precisely this threat.
“With a Bill to grant migrant NHS workers Indefinite Leave to Remain, it is time the Government assures them that they will not be callously cast aside as a political inconvenience.”
“The country they have sacrificed so much for should be welcoming them home. They have shown unswerving commitment to this country and their people and their selfless sacrifice must be recognised.”
“This is the moral and decent thing to do. We cannot adopt a short-sighted view on this issue or we will have a similar situation to the current shortage of HGV drivers with no solution.”
“Voting against this bill would be contemptuous of NHS frontline staff and we would hope that all MPs would support NHS staff.”