• Physios welcome expansion of visa extensions scheme to include profession
  • But union calls on Home Office for ‘further assurances’
  • Change to include physios in visa extension scheme followed warning of ‘tidal wave’ of rehab work

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has urged ministers for “further assurances” following their calls for government to extend overseas physios’ visas during the covid-19 pandemic.

The Home Office announced last week that midwives, social workers and pharmacists from overseas were being granted one-year visa extensions to help the country battle covid-19.

It initially appeared physios were not part of the scheme, after the group was not mentioned in a Home Office letter to a Parliament select committee. They were also not directly mentioned in a government announcement last month.

But this position has changed following the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warning of a potential “tidal wave” of additional rehabilitation work in the NHS due to coronavirus.

Rob Yeldham, director of strategy at the CSP, told HSJ: “After we called for change, the Home Office’s decision [to include physios in the scheme] is a welcome relief to many CSP members. We have had members working in intensive care unit[s] worrying about whether their visa is about to expire.

“Community rehabilitation services are likely to see an unprecedented increase in demand as we turn to face the challenge of meeting the post-covid healthcare needs in the months and years ahead.”

But he called for “further assurances from the Home Office around the timescale during which extensions are made, the status of physio support workers and those not directly employed by healthcare providers”.

The government’s latest decision to expand its visa extensions programme affects 3,000 workers, according to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

It follows an earlier announcement to extend the visas of 2,800 overseas nurses, paramedics and doctors last month.

A Home Office spokeswoman told HSJ: “Our one-year visa extension for physiotherapists and their families whose visas expire before 1 October is free, automatic, and includes exemption from the immigration health surcharge.

“We are very grateful to physiotherapists for their efforts helping coronavirus patients recover, and we are keeping these measures under review to see how else we can support frontline workers.”

UPDATED 18.15: This article has been updated to include a comment from the Home Office