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Government announces one-year visa extension for overseas pharmacists

Overseas community pharmacists whose visas are due to expire before April 2021 will have them extended for free for a year, the Home Office has announced.

Healthcare workers – including community pharmacists and their family dependants – whose visas are scheduled to expire between October 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, will be eligible for the extension.

This follows a previous one-year extension for pharmacists and other overseas health workers announced in April and applicable to those whose working visas were set to expire between March 31, 2020 and October 1, 2020.

Pharmacists eligible for the extension need to complete an online form to verify their identity and employers will need to confirm their eligibility.

Home secretary Priti Patel said last week (November 20) that: “We recognise the huge contribution healthcare professionals from overseas are making across the UK in fighting the devastating impact of coronavirus.

“We truly value the work these heroes are doing, which is why we’re renewing our free 12-month visa extension offer,” she added.

Ms Patel said the government estimated that this will benefit around 6,000 frontline workers and their families.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) policy manager Helga Mangion told C+D today (November 24) that the NPA welcomes the news, “especially at a time when the NHS needs all the help it can get”.

“We know community pharmacy is facing a workforce shortage so it’s important pharmacists who have contributed so much already to the nation’s health are given this flexibility,” she added.

RPS: “Amazing contribution” of overseas pharmacists

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Sandra Gidley said last week (November 20) that the RPS was “pleased” by the news.

“It is only right that the amazing contribution overseas pharmacists have made during the pandemic is recognised in this way. It is vital that the workforce is retained and supported so that teams can continue to provide patient care during and beyond the second wave of the pandemic.” Ms Gidley said.

However, the RPS urged the government to review the cases of pharmacists who may have missed out on the visa extension between October 1 and November 20.

“We’d like to see a review of cases where pharmacists have missed the window since October. To avoid this situation in the future, the policy should be reviewed in good time ahead of the new deadline in March,” Ms Gidley added.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week (November 20): “This visa extension will help to benefit healthcare professionals who have shown extraordinary dedication during this challenging period to protect all of us and our families from the threat of the virus.”

This latest visa extension will cover “all fees and charges, including the immigration health surcharge”, the health secretary confirmed. This was also the case with the on-year extension announced in April.

Last week’s news comes after Ms Patel and Mr Hancock said in July that overseas pharmacists would be eligible for a fast-track new health and care visa that will similarly exempt them from the immigration health surcharge.

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