The UK government must include foreign-born allied health professionals in the scheme to automatically extend workers' right to live and work in the UK, says the SDLP’s economy spokesperson Sinead McLaughlin.
She was backing a call from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
“We owe a massive debt of gratitude to our health professionals and other essential workers,” said Sinead McLaughlin. “The UK government must now honour that debt by giving them the right to continue to live and work in the UK. That is the right thing to do, it is also a necessary thing to do to protect our health service.
“That principle should extend across our economy. Essential workers in the health sector, social care and also in agriculture and other core industries are needed, now and into the future as we emerge from the twin nightmares of Covid-19 and Brexit.
“I also make a plea to the health minister, Robin Swann, to commit to increasing the training of health workers, including by giving immediate approval for the Graduate Entry Medical School in Derry, to increase the supply of doctors in Northern Ireland. This is needed more than ever.”
Karin Orman, Assistant Director of Professional Practic, says: “Occupational therapists are a key part of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, supporting people as they are discharged from hospitals as well as supporting those 1.5m people that are having to self-isolate in their homes.
“The pressures on occupational therapists on the frontline have grown rapidly and we need to prioritise the future of the workforce, particularly in the next 12-18 months as the demands on rehabilitation in communities will grow. As part of this, we need to retain our overseas workforce, which accounts for around 3,000 occupational therapists in the UK. We are therefore calling on the UK government to extend the visa extension scheme to include occupational therapists working in the NHS and in social care.”
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