Society gives overseas visa proposals cautious welcome but says more must be done

SoR will lobby for improvements

Published: 26 February 2020 SoR

The Society has responded to the government’s proposals for post-Brexit visa reform with “Could be worse but could still do better”.

In response to the proposals, the Society will:

  • Lobby to make sure both therapeutic and diagnostic radiography are fully recognised on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
  • Use the regulations to amplify our case for full statutory recognition for sonography.
  • Argue against other barriers to migration, such as theImmigration Health Surcharge (recently doubled to £400 a year for most visa applicants).
  • Monitor the tone of the migration debate, challenging hostility signposting and bigotry.
  • Press for a workable social care strategy to avoid unsustainable additional pressure on the health sector.

The Home Office have published the proposals for replacing the current visa with a new points-based immigration system, extending coverage to potential migrants from the EU from 1 January 2021.

To gain entry to work in medical imaging and radiography, foreign nationals will need a job offer recognised as being at the required skill level and good English.

The salary level will need to be above £25,600 and/or on the SOL. Those with a relevant PhD and/or STEM qualifications can also qualify, although a job offer and English skills are essential.

“It is a relief that at first glance the government’s new visa system will allow continued access for qualified professionals from the EU and more widely," commented Dean Rogers, the Society's director of industrial strategy and member relations.

"This is essential now and for the foreseeable future given that demand is still outstripping supply and fewer people are training in the UK than we will need.”

Dean added, "We will be lobbying to make sure the Home Office recognise both therapeutic and diagnostic radiography on the SOL and that qualification checks, by the Home Office and HCPC, recognise the difference between the professional strands to minimise risks. To work, the SOL must be simple and unequivocal.

"Maintaining this will help government agencies avoid delays and controversy, whilst indirectly help make the argument for focussed, specialist, targeted recruitment drives for radiographers across NHS trusts and boards.

“We will also be using these regulations to amplify the need for statutory recognition for sonography. Establishing a formal professional framework will help recruitment to sonography, whereas a lack of such arrangements could confuse immigration assessors, so this an opportunity to further this agenda.”

"However," Dean said, “There are some concerns which we’ll also be looking to highlight in our lobbying. These include other on-going barriers to immigration which are counter-productive if the government is serious about their points system working positively. For example, the symbolic Immigration Health Surcharge is an unfair and utterly unjustified tax on foreign workers who are paying income tax and national insurance like everyone else in the workforce. Such signposts need to be taken down if the government is really trying to end up in a different place.”

Dean also said that the SoR are concerned by the tone of the immigration discussion. He explained, “Since the referendum there has been an increase in open hostility towards BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) staff. It’s as if the debate empowered or gave permission to say nasty and abusive things to people because of their race, colour, or nationality.

"This has contributed to the recruitment and retention crisis. It’s bound to be difficult to get someone to come and work, or to stay, in a hostile environment. The style and tone the proposal’s advocates send to the public will be critical. We could do with all politicians uniting and saying permissions to be racist are withdrawn after Brexit.

"Racism and tolerance of bigotry isn’t British.”

Dean also commented that the biggest challenge in the proposals will be how they fit within a broader government employment strategy, especially for the health sector.

He explained, “This is a big symbolic piece of the government’s Brexit implementation. It won’t work in isolation. For example, we, like all of the health sector, are concerned by the failure to accommodate the needs of social care in this plan.

"The potentially catastrophic impact on social care will feed through to hospitals and pressure on all parts of the health service. There will have to be flexibility and vigilance as any system is refined and implemented; any dogma will have a really nasty bite.”