THE importance of the joint letter sent by health leaders to Sajid Javid, the newly-appointed Home Secretary, can’t be over-estimated. In the wake of the Windrush scandal, and now the IT blunder over breast screening checks, the warnings of Britain’s top doctors need to be heeded.
For years, they have been stating how the NHS is totally dependent on medical practitioners from overseas – and that this has been compromised by immigration controls put in place by Theresa May when Home Secretary. The consequence? Doctors becoming more overstretched, 100,000 posts unfilled, longer waiting times and some NHS trusts warning that patient safety will be put at risk unless the Prime Minister sees sense and relaxes the rules.
And, with new reports revealing the extent to which Mrs May has ignored requests from Cabinet colleagues to lift restrictions barring skilled doctors from overseas working in NHS hospitals, they hope Mr Javid – the son of immigrants – will be more amenable. He needs to be. After all, it’s going to take a major effort to undertake the screening tests after a blunder meant that more than 300,000 women were not invited for a check that could detect cancer – and fears that up to 270 individuals died prematurely as a result of this error.
If these are to be done promptly, and efficiently, the NHS will need more staff. And there’s another point at the end of a politically tumultuous week. In contrast to many of his colleagues, Mr Javid is, in fact, a self-made man. As such, he should realise the folly of Britain shutting its doors to talented people from overseas whose experience, expertise and enthusiasm can only enrich this country – whether it be the NHS or the world of business. He can begin by prescribing the remedies advocated by the British Medical Association and many others.