London .- Theresa May is expected to lift the cap on doctors from outside the EU within weeks, after the NHS warned that it was leading to staff shortages, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
Government discussions are at a “fairly developed stage” after Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, persuaded the Prime Minister to relax restrictions
May previously blocked plans to water down the visa rules when pleas were made by Amber Rudd, Javid’s predecessor in the Home Office.
The number of non-EU highly skilled workers who can move to the UK on “tier 2” visas in any one year, including doctors, is capped at 20,700.
Government sources said discussions were focusing on how to lift the cap, with the number of foreign doctors allowed into the UK likely to be tied to the needs of the NHS.
Hunt has argued that doctors and nurses should be temporarily exempted from the cap until the Government’s planned 25 per cent increase in training places starts to have an effect.
Health chiefs have called the cap “absolutely barmy” after official figures revealed that 1,518 bids for visas by foreign doctors were turned down in the four months to March.
The move represents a significant softening of the Prime Minister’s tough line on immigration and comes ahead of the 70th anniversary of the NHS next month. May is likely to face pressure from other members of her Cabinet to exempt other foreign workers in highly skilled professions from the cap.
Between December and March, more than 6,000 visa applications were turned down from workers including doctors and scientists.