All doctors should be added to the shortage occupation list, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has said.
The Full review of the Shortage Occupation List, published by the committee today, said there is ‘sufficient and overwhelming evidence of a UK-wide shortage’ of doctors, and argued that all medical professions should be added to the shortage list.
Only some medical professions, including clinical radiologists, emergency medicine consultants, and old age psychiatrists, are on the list at the moment.
An increasing number of Tier 2 visas are being issued for doctors, the committee said. This comes as the Home Office excluded doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 visa cap last year.
The review said: ‘We recognise that many of those who responded to the call for evidence admit that migration is not the sole nor a long-term solution to [staff] shortages.’
However, the review added that in the short-term the inclusion of all medical professions on the list could go some way towards addressing recruitment difficulties.
‘Cover a range of occupations’
The committee’s review also recommended adding psychologists, medical radiographers, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists to the shortage occupation list.
Nurses, paramedics, and social workers – professions that have been on the list since 2013, 2015, and 2009 respectively – should remain on it, the review added.
MAC chair Professor Alan Manning said: ‘Today’s labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last shortage occupation list was published in 2013.
‘Unemployment is lower and employers in various industries are facing difficulties in finding skilled people to fill their vacancies.
‘That is why we have recommended expanding the shortage occupation list to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields.’
However, he added that the recommendations are only valid as long as EU free movement remains and that MAC is recommending a ‘full review of the shortage occupation list once there is a clearer picture of what the future immigration system will look like’.
The NHS is currently short of more than 100,000 professionals, while there are around 110,000 vacancies in the social care sector.
Commenting on the MAC proposals, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:
‘Around 10% of doctors working in the UK are from the European Union and it’s very clear that overseas doctors have always made a valuable contribution to the success of our health service and their contribution is needed now more than ever.
‘The Government must now move swiftly to implement the MAC’s proposals, but it also needs to ensure that this is only the first step in bringing together a coherent, well-funded workforce plan that in the long term addresses the damaging pressures on our NHS.’
An interim report of the workforce plan – also known as the NHS People Plan – was initially expected to be released in April but has yet to be published.
Cavendish Coalition co-convener and NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: ‘We urge the Government to enact these recommendations quickly to ensure continued recruitment into shortage occupations.’