Health Secretary Matt Hancock has praised NHS staff who have come from abroad amid calls to reform immigration rules for medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Around a quarter of UK hospital staff have come to work in Britain from overseas, according to the Office for National Statistics.
But the Cabinet minister said they make up a “disproportionate number” of those in the NHS that have died with Covid-19.
During yesterday’s daily briefing Mr Hancock said: “I pay tribute to them…I think it’s fair to say that my admiration for those who work in the NHS, whether they come from overseas or were born here, it doesn't matter, my admiration is unparalleled.”
His comments came as the British Medical Association (BMA) called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to grant indefinite leave to remain to all international doctors, removing restrictions on their ability to stay in the UK.
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The BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul, also urged that the Home Office grant indefinite leave to remain to the families of overseas medical staff who die in the pandemic.
In an open letter to the government department, he highlighted that many international doctors and healthcare staff may have to pay a surcharge for their own healthcare due to their immigration statuses.
Dr Nagpaul said: “It is unfair to expect doctors currently outside of the UK who are willing to come to help in the crisis and other international doctors and healthcare workers already in the UK, who are prepared to risk their lives while providing care in the NHS, to pay for that care should they themselves need it.”
Some changes to the immigration rules have already been announced by the government, including a visa allowing doctors, nurses and health professionals from overseas to work in the NHS.
The Home Office announced that medical professionals whose visa is due to expire before October 1 will be able to extend it for a year without charge.
Boris Johnson also paid tribute to the NHS staff from abroad who treated him for coronavirus, as he left hospital on Sunday.
In a video message the Prime Minister said: “I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand…and Luis from Portugal.”
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