Immigration rules capping the number of foreign medics working in the UK are reportedly going to be eased to allow the NHS to recruit more staff.
Sajid Javid will remove non-EU doctors and nurses from the annual 20,700 “tier 2” visa limit on non-EU workers, The Sun and The Telegraph reported.
Earlier this month, family doctors urged Mr Javid to lift the cap warning of a “desperate need” to ease pressures amid escalating patient demand.
In a letter to Mr Javid, the head of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said there were concerning cases where foreign GPs had been affected by the “hostile environment” policies first introduced by Theresa May while she was at the Home Office.
The British Medical Journal has said that between December 2017 and March 2018 more than 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers in the UK were refused as a result of the cap on workers from outside the European Economic Area.
At the start of June, Mr Javid had signalled there could be a softer approach to immigration policy under his leadership at the Home Office, including looking again at the cap on “tier 2 visas”.
After his comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, a spokesman for Ms May said that visa routes were “always under review” and it was monitoring the situation.
“Currently around one third of all tier 2 places go to the NHS and there are now record numbers working in the NHS,” he added.
The Telegraph reported that a number of Cabinet ministers joined Mr Javid to convince the prime minister to remove medical staff from tier 2.
The move would also create space for thousands of more immigrants in areas like science and IT.
Sunder Katwala, director of the immigration think tank British Future, said removing medical personnel from the visa cap would be a “sensible move”.
He said: “It never made sense to turn away doctors and nurses that the NHS needs. It also frees up tier 2 visa places for other employers who need high-skilled staff to fill vacancies.
“It’s the right short-term fix for 2018. In the longer term, Britain will need better training of doctors, engineers and others here in the UK, together with an immigration system that welcomes people with the skills we need.
“But perhaps this is a sign that Home Secretary Sajid Javid is willing to take a bolder and more flexible approach to immigration, and deliver the kind of system that Britain will need after we leave the EU.”
The Home Office declined to comment.