Author: Daniel Waldron, Edited by Simon Brewer
A number of new health roles will be added to the UK immigration Shortage Occupation List (SOL), the government has announced. Laboratory technicians, nursing assistants, pharmacists and senior care workers are among several jobs that will be added to the SOL, making it easier for foreign workers in these professions to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa.
The list will also be expanded to include health service managers, public health managers and directors, residential, day and domiciliary care managers and health professionals not elsewhere classified – including audiologists and dental hygiene therapists, according to a press release on the government’s official website.
In addition to a number of health care roles, modern foreign language teachers have been included on the SOL. The changes aim to ensure that UK businesses and public services across the country have access to the brightest and best talent from around the world.
UK immigration changes
The news follows the recent announcement of a UK elite visa as part of Rishi Sunak’s Budget, and plans to reform the failed Global Talent Visa and Innovator Visa. The Home Office has also confirmed that a new Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July, 2021.
Commenting on the expansion of the SOL, the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, said: “Every year we welcome healthcare workers from across the world to our United Kingdom, with many having played a key role on the frontline of the NHS during the recent pandemic.”
“This latest set of changes, combined with our Health and Care Visa, will ensure they can easily get the immigration status they deserve,” Mr Foster added.
The expansion of the SOL has been attributed to a Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) review commissioned last year. While the government has accepted several of the changes recommended by the MAC, further alterations to the list were delayed as the government waits to evaluate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A comment posted on Twitter made by Jon Restell, the chief executive of MiP – a trade union for health and care managers – said: “As we can begin to look beyond the pandemic, one of the most serious issues facing the NHS is the more than 100,000 vacancies…some of these are unfilled health service manager posts. The pandemic has taught us that health systems need efficient and professional management.”
However, despite expanding the SOL to include more health care roles, the government was blasted for proposing a 1% pay rise to NHS staff. Ministers are now being urged to grant ‘COVID heroes’ a bigger pay rise.
In response, ministers defended the proposal, saying “we’re in a period where the economy is under huge pressure.”
But health service unions slammed ministers, accusing them of ‘kicking NHS staff in the teeth who had given absolutely everything to protect the British public.’