Indefinite leave to remain sought for fitting 'thank you' for health and social care staff

The UK Government has been urged to hand indefinite leave to remain to health and social care staff amid warnings of a “psychological and financial” burden on Britain's key workers.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine is urging ministers to act and offer “security and reassurance” to those who put their lives on the line during the pandemic.

Speaking to The Scotsman, the Edinburgh West MP claimed failing to do so could see the heroes of the pandemic face expensive visa costs or even being deported.

Ms Jardine, who has tabled a Private Members' Bill in a bid to see the ambition realised, said: “So many of us have so much to be thankful to our NHS and care workers for in this pandemic that it seems the most appropriate way of saying thank you, to say to those who are here on visas, and want to stay and contribute, yes of course you are welcome.

Dr Krizun Loganathan worked in a busy Intensive Care Unit during the 1st wave of the COVID pandemic.

“When the pandemic was at its worst and the daily death toll was frightening, many of those at most risk in the NHS and care sector did not, at any time, shrink from the threat to their own wellbeing.

“Now that many of them who have lives here, make an invaluable contribution to our society and want to stay, it is surely unreasonable to ask them to come up with the expense of visa costs or face the threat of being deported.”

Earlier this year it was announced that NHS and social care staff would have their visas extended by one year, but Ms Jardine insisted this was not enough.

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The call was praised by Dolin Bhagawati, the Interim Co-Chair of the Doctors’ Association UK

She explained: “They are here legally, have worked hard, saved lives and made an astonishing contribution to getting this country through the worst pandemic and economic crisis in recent history.

“Without them the burden on our NHS and care sectors would have been so much heavier for everyone.”

The UK employs 170,000 non-British individuals from more than 200 countries in the NHS, making up 14 per cent of all NHS staff.

One of these is Dr Krizun Loganathan, who worked in a busy intensive care unit during the first wave of the Covid pandemic.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has called for indefinite leave to remain for health and social care staff.

The accident-and-emergency (A&E) doctor in Merseyside is concerned over the threat of deportation and impact of visa costs on him and his colleagues.

He said: "Immigrant healthcare workers, in every role, have worked flat out long before Covid existed, and really came through during the pandemic. Many have lost their lives on the frontline.

“They turned up, even when they knew that the virus was sometimes more deadly to them.

“Now, on top of it all, they are burnt out or priced out, by visa fees and the threat of deportation.

“This Bill will lift a massive psychological and financial burden off the shoulders of these vital NHS workers, so they can continue to see us out of this crisis.”

The Bill was also backed by Dolin Bhagawati, the interim co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK.

He said: “These are dedicated professionals who have performed a heroic service over the last 18 months. Yet they live with the potential for deportation over their heads at any instant.

“Over the last year, the Doctors’ Association UK has helped doctors and their families who were threatened with deportation despite working on Covid wards and risking their lives to treat the British public. Our colleagues do not deserve such persecutory action.

“These colleagues continue to work despite the burnout facing all NHS staff and coping with increasing GP, A&E, mental health and specialist waiting lists.

“We need their skills and knowledge, or the NHS will face even greater challenges which will simply not be overcome, with current staff shortages already in the region of 100,000.

“They have shown unswerving commitment to this country and its people and their selfless sacrifice must be recognised.

“Voting against this Bill would be contemptuous of NHS frontline staff. Supporting this Bill is the moral and decent thing to do.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We recognise the huge contribution healthcare professionals from overseas are making across the country in fighting the coronavirus.

“The automatic visa extension, which will benefit key health occupations working in the social care sector, such as nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, is just one of the ways the government is showing its support and gratitude.

“More widely, eligible health professionals, and their dependants, can apply for the new fast-track Health and Care visa, which makes it easier and quicker for the best global health professionals to work in the NHS, the social care sector and for those organisations which provide commissioned services to the NHS.”

SNP home affairs spokesperson, Stuart McDonald MP said: “The Tory government’s hostile approach to immigration is damaging Scotland’s economy, and our public services, by driving away the talented people we need to attract - including the frontline NHS workers we have depended upon to get us through the pandemic.

"Migrants enrich our society and make a net contribution to our economy but Brexit and other toxic Tory policies are creating harmful barriers and making people think twice about moving to the UK. There is a danger that as a result of Westminster’s obsession with reducing migration, Scotland’s working age population will fall into decline and we’ll face increasing problems with staffing shortages - impacting us all.

"It’s vital that Scotland gets powers over migration so we can build a tailored system that meets our needs and values. Ultimately, the best way to achieve that is to become an independent country with the full powers needed to build a fairer system and strengthen our economy.”

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