International NHS and social care staff who have worked during the Covid-19 pandemic should be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK with their families, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has said.
The college is calling for a “new deal” for overseas health and social care workers after a poll found the majority of people thought international staff had been vital during the pandemic.
The deal calls for workers to be exempt them from the £400 international health surcharge to use the NHS.
The proposed NHS visa, which the Government says will make it easier for doctors and nurses from around the world to work in the UK, should also be extended to social care staff, the RCP said.
A poll carried out by the RCP of 1,679 people found 67% thought it was unlikely that the NHS would have been able to tackle coronavirus without international staff.
The survey also found 59% people also thought overseas staff who have worked in the NHS during the pandemic should have the right to permanently stay in the UK.
The same number thought international NHS and social care staff should not have to pay an annual charge to use the health service.
Meanwhile, a higher number (69%) said the Government should publicly acknowledge their contributions.
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that our NHS would not be able to cope, even in ‘normal’ times, without the contribution of our international colleagues.
“Their work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been crucial to saving lives, and our polling results today clearly show that the public share our eagerness to reward them for their commitment and dedication.
“The Government has an opportunity to reset the narrative and make the NHS a truly welcoming place to work for everyone.
“I hope they seize it.”