Immigration Minister Damian Green has expressed deep concerned on difficulties being experienced in recruitment of junior doctors in Northern Ireland due to adverse effect of changes to the Immigration Rules.
He aired the concern after Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson held preliminary discussions with the Home Office over new immigration rules which have prevented local hospitals from recruiting junior doctors from outside the EU.
He received a response from the Immigration Minister, who arranged for initial discussions to be held. Donaldson is now due to meet with officials to progress the matter further.
As reported in Star Ulster, in his response to Donaldson, the Immigration Minister said: “I am deeply concerned to hear about the difficulties being experienced with recruitment in Northern Ireland, which you believe is an adverse effect of changes to the Immigration Rules.”
The rules have been held responsible, in part, for the current lack of junior doctors in Northern Ireland. At the Lagan Valley Hospital four junior doctor posts have been left vacant, resulting in the dropping of hours at the Lisburn hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department.
Following the decline in opening hours at the local A&E Donaldson wrote to the Home Office expressing concern about the restrictions.
Donaldson said that as he understood the need for proper assessment of professional staff entering the UK, the situation must be addressed in order to tackle the ongoing recruitment crisis in local hospitals.
He asserted “I raised this matter with the Home Office and following this there has been some initial contact with the Home Office about the immigration arrangements for junior doctors entering the UK. “
Donaldson elaborated the Home Office have offered them the opportunity of a meeting which will include officials from the Department of Health to discuss the experience of junior doctors overseas who wish to work in the health service in Northern Ireland.
Donaldson continued that there was a significant delay in recruiting junior doctors and it was important that these delays were addressed because it inhibited the capacity of the health service to supplement their junior doctor’s numbers with qualified staff from overseas.
He added that the result has been that a number of accident and emergency departments have been effected, including Lagan Valley.
“I understand the need to properly vet professional staff entering the UK, including junior doctors,” he added, “and this is only part of the strategy to tackle this problem.”