Dentist wins right to stay and work in Scotland

AN INDIAN dentist who was told she would be sent home, despite her desire to remain working for Scotland's understaffed dental service, has been given permission to stay after the Home Office said it had found "a way round the problem".

Siddhika Sathyamoorthy, 24, came to Scotland last year to work in a practice in the Chancellor Gordon Brown's constituency, after hearing about the Scottish Executive's recruitment drive among foreign dentists.

Her employers had offered her a permanent job, but she was refused a work visa after she failed to achieve enough "points" under the complicated highly skilled migrant programme. Among a list of criteria, she did not have a highly skilled partner or husband and earned less than 27,000 last year.

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But the day after her story appeared in The Scotsman, on 7 August, Home Office officials contacted Ms Sathyamoorthy to say they thought there might be another way to allow her to stay in the country, which she had not been told about originally.

Last night, an immigration charity described the speed at which the dispute was settled as "a remarkable turnaround".

Opposition politicians who had backed Ms Sathyamoorthy's case called for the rules for incoming essential workers to be overhauled.

Ms Sathyamoorthysaid: "My work visa has come through and I am extremely relieved at the outcome. I'm so pleased the whole thing has been resolved.

"I was about to consult an immigration lawyer, but the day after my story was in The Scotsman I got a telephone call from the Home Office.

"The official said I should apply for a business and commercial work permit."

Her employers, Richard and Fiona McFadzean at Templehall practice in Kirkcaldy, run six wholly NHS surgeries.

Richard McFadzean said: "We are really happy she's got her work permit through and that we'll have her for the foreseeable future. She'll start with us permanently over the next two or three weeks."

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Rhian Beynon, a spokeswoman for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "It's certainly a pretty remarkable turnaround. We just wish that everyone could enjoy that level of service."

Dr Nanette Milne, the Tory health spokeswoman, said: "The whole situation has been farcical."

Shona Robison, the SNP health spokeswoman, said:

"Her case highlights a major flaw in the system. The application process needs to be reformed and made clearer to everyone."

Scotland has 2,367 dentists, but a shortfall of 120 is not expected to be solved until 2012.