Qualified doctors and nurses from outside the European Union will find it easier to get a job in the UK after the Government announced more visas will be made available.

The country has a shortage of doctors and nurses, but until now applicants from outside of the EU were limited by a cap on skilled worker visas to 20,700 per year.

Now more visas for medical professionals are to be made available as doctors and nurses will be excluded from the cap and the exact number of visas will be determined by demand from the National Health Service (NHS).

The move has been welcomed by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA). RCGP chairwoman professor Helen Stokes-Lampard called it a ‘much needed victory for common sense and patient care. The organisation has been lobbying Home Secretary Sajid Javid to relax the rules for foreign medics.

According to the British Medical Journal more than 1,500 visa applications from foreign doctors with job offers in the UK were rejected because of the cap.

‘The NHS, general practice included, has long been supported by the skills and hard work of doctors and other healthcare professionals from overseas. Mindful of similar pressures in other countries, we would welcome any appropriately trained doctor who wants to work in UK general practice to help us deliver care to over one million patients a day,’ said Stokes-Lampard.

The BMA said a change in the rules is a welcome relief to doctors and patients. ‘Overseas doctors make an invaluable contribution to our health service and, at a time when there are thousands of unfilled vacancies within the NHS, it is absurd that the Government should stop experienced and talented healthcare professionals coming to work here and provide much needed care for patients,’ said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.

Javid described it as a solution to increased demands on the NJS. ‘I recognise the pressures faced by the NHS and other sectors in recent months. Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK. That is why I have reviewed our skilled worker visa route,’ he said.

The change is also good news for other skilled workers from overseas seeking a position in the UK as the visas that have gone to medical professionals will be freed up for others such as engineers, IT professionals and teachers.