With the news currently dominated by coverage of how the NHS is struggling to cope with the added pressure this winter, it’s surprising to learn that some non-EU doctors are being blocked from coming to the UK due to visa issues.

Doctors who already hold job offers from the NHS are being denied their Tier 2 visa sponsorship as the quotas for non-EU workers are already full. This particular type of Tier 2 visa allows workers to come to the UK if they are sponsored by a qualifying sponsor.

The quotas were set seven years ago and are now proving problematic for those holding job offers from the NHS. Their certificate of sponsorship applications are now being rejected as a result of the quotas. There is a 20,700 annual cap on non-EU workers, and this is split into monthly targets, meaning that hiring decisions cannot be made in relation to seasonal demands.

While this isn’t having an impact on some workers, such as paediatricians and emergency medics, junior doctors are struggling to get their applications approved. This means there are much-needed specialists who are trained in areas such as elderly care struggling to take up their posts in time.

In addition to the monthly cap, the Home Office also increased the minimum income threshold to £55,000 a year, up from £30,000. Applicants must also reach 55 points, up from 21 in November, in order to be eligible. This means that non-EU junior doctors are less likely to be able to work in the NHS.

As a result, one medical recruitment company boss has said that the NHS will have to rely on agency staff. These appointments are typically more expensive than hiring staff to work for the NHS. According to Ryan Halliday, co-founder and director of BDI Resourcing, “The doctors being rejected are going into panic mode – they have a spent a lot of money on their [language] qualification, a lot of money on their [GMC] registration, but they’re now thinking: ‘What do I do? Do I give up? Try for a job in the Middle East?’ It has a huge knock-on effect.”

The quota resets in April, but the Home Office has just 2,870 certificates of sponsorship left to assign before the cap refreshes. With the NHS struggling to cope with seasonal demands, this is likely to cause problems over the winter period.