All international NHS and social care staff who have worked during the coronavirus should be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has said.
The organisation, which represents 37,000 medical professions, is calling on the government to create a “new deal” for international health and social care staff that recognises their vital role in the frontline response to COVID-19 and the important part they will continue to play in the future.
As well as being given indefinite leave to remain, the RCP says staff, and their spouses and dependents, should be exempt from the International Health Surcharge.
The proposed NHS Visa, which the government says will make it easier for doctors and nurses from overseas to work in the UK, should be extended to social care staff, the RCP said.
The organisation made the call after commissioning YouGov polling which showed clear public support for acknowledging the contributions of NHS and social care staff who have worked during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sixty-seven per cent of respondents thought it was unlikely that the NHS would have been able to tackle coronavirus without international staff, while 59% thought international staff who have worked in the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic should have the right to permanently stay in the UK.
The polling on 1,679 also revealed immense public appreciation for the international NHS and social care staff who have worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with 69% of them calling for the government to publicly acknowledge their invaluable contributions.
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that our NHS would not be able to cope, even in ‘normal’ times, without the contribution of our international colleagues.
“Their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been crucial to saving lives, and our polling results today clearly show that the public share our eagerness to reward them for their commitment and dedication.
“The government has an opportunity to reset the narrative and make the NHS a truly welcoming place to work for everyone. I hope they seize it.”