Zimbabwe to lose doctors as UK moves to relax visa rules for health professionals

Migrating to the UK will soon be easier for health professionals from countries such as Zimbabwe as the United Kingdom plans to introduce a new fast-track visa scheme for health professionals.

FWH6G8 London, UK. 5th April, 2016. Home Office UK Visas and Immigration HQ (UKBA) Lunar House in East Croydon Credit: Guy Corbishley/Alamy Live News

Under the National Health Service (NHS) visa scheme, application fees would be halved to 464 pounds from 928 pounds at present. In addition, medical professionals joining the NHS would receive extra points and applicants would be fast-tracked under the plans with preferential treatment and faster decisions.

The plan to relax rules for NHS staff comes after Britain said in August it would relax immigration rules to attract more scientists as it prepares to leave the European Union (EU).

“These measures are part of our plan for an Australian-style points-based immigration system that allows us to control numbers while remaining open to vital professions like nurses,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said in a statement.

She said that the UK wants to attract talent from around the world so that the NHS continues to provide brilliant service while ensuring that it isn’t put under strain by opening Britain’s borders to the entire world.

The special visas will make it easier for UK’s National Health Service to recruit doctors and nurses from other countries after Brexit.


Commenting on the developments, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono says countries with poorly remunerated medical professionals like Zimbabwe will be the biggest losers as brain drain is set to begin on a large scale. The Zimbabwe government announced that it had fired 211 junior doctors for absenteeism after they ignored a Labour Court ruling to return to work.

“Zimbabwe has lost several Urologists to Britain in the past few weeks. We are going to lose more doctors and nurses. The exodus has started as it did with pharmacists in 2006,” said Chin’ono, writing on social media.

He added: “As Britain prepares to exit the EU, it will no longer be tied to EU restrictions. It will hire professionals from around the world. Our Government should have known this before foolishly firing the country’s doctors. Recruiters from Britain are now at work going through CVs.”

Zimbabwean public hospital doctors have been on job action for the past three months and insist they want a salary tied to the interbank exchange rate, something treasury says will not happen as it has no money.

About 153,000 of 1.2 million health workers in the UK are non-British. About 52,000 of current NHS staff are Asian nationals including those from India.

The UK government said the new NHS visa would allow it to control immigration while ensuring there would not be a skills shortage for the health service.zimvoice