• NHS staff working at any level will be given visas under a Labour government
  • Shadow health secretary says “not unreasonable” to commit to visas for social care workers too
  • Medical training initiative will also be expanded

The Labour party would ensure work visas for anyone who has a job offer in the NHS “at whatever level”, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth announced today.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, Mr Ashworth said: “It is not unreasonable to make a similar commitment to staff who work in the social care sector.

“We have made a commitment and are sending a message to trusts and trust leaders [who] have told me time and time again they are tearing their hair out and we want to make things smoother.”

He also pledged to expand the medical training initiative “for all those wishing to take up the opportunity”. The national scheme allows a small number of doctors to come to the UK for two years to train in the NHS.

Asked by HSJ whether the visas would be removed if staff went to work elsewhere, Mr Ashworth said the usual rules would apply.

Mr Ashworth also described the government’s recent immigration white paper, which presents a more restrictive policy for EEA workers, as a “cause for concern”.

“Fourteen per cent of nurses and 28 per cent of doctors were trained internationally and they make a vital contribution to delivering NHS services,” he said.

The government announced earlier this month that nurses, paramedics and medical radiographers will continue to be exempt from the minimum salary requirement for a tier 2 visa until January 2021.

Mr Ashworth told HSJ that Labour would place more investment in leadership and training opportunities for managers, adding: “Good quality healthcare depends on good quality leadership and good management.”

He also said he would like to see further investment in opportunities for women and black and minority ethnic communities.

Mr Ashworth added the “failure to fully get nurse degree apprenticeships off the ground has been highly frustrating”, saying “structural issues” with the apprenticeship levy model make it too expensive for trusts “to use properly”.

He said: “The government should consider options for this funding remaining ring-fenced for apprenticeships and other related training.

“Angela Rayner [Labour’s shadow education secretary] and I have written to the education and health secretaries making this point and calling for reform.”

Mr Ashworth said Labour would restore continuing professional development funding to 2013-14 levels, which would see a new investment of £250m, bringing the workforce development budget up to just over £330m.

Mr Ashworth also used his speech to announce Labour would put in place a national staff wellbeing strategy and create board level NHS workforce wellbeing guardians in every NHS organisation.