Kiwi cancer-fighting specialist booted out of Britain as rules on overseas workers tightened

A New Zealander who uses her specialist medical skills to fight cancer has been booted out of Britain because the country has tightened rules on all overseas workers, a policy that's leaving vital services like health in the lurch.

Steph Burcher, a genetic counsellor, has left London and headed back to New Zealand, but it's not of her choosing.

"I really enjoy working here and I really enjoy my job and would like to continue doing it, but unfortunately I can't without a visa," she told 1 NEWS.

That's despite the fact she helps save lives. A genetic counsellor is a specialised position which identifies people at risk of developing hereditary cancers and is a vital role in cancer prevention.

But after nearly two years on a young person's visa, her application to be sponsored and stay on was denied.

There will be women who are at risk, who could potentially be prevented from getting cancer - Professor Jayant Vaidya, breast cancer surgeon

"It was really disappointing to get confirmation," she said.

There's a cap on the number of skilled workers from outside the European Union allowed to live and work in Britain.

The rules were tightened even more last December. 

The cap covers all skilled industries, with priority given to hard-to-staff medical professions, but not genetic counsellors despite experts saying there is a workforce shortage.

"Unequivocally, waits are getting longer. It varies depending on the on hospital trust and where you are in the UK, but we are aware now of at least one trust that is about to have three empty positions," said Dr Katie Snape, consultant for cancer genetics.

And doctors say that's putting lives at risk.

Breast cancer surgeon Professor Jayant Vaidya said there will be women who are at risk, "who could potentially be prevented from getting cancer".

Steph Burcher's case is not an isolated one. A recent report warned that one in every 11 posts in the National Health Service was vacant.

Chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said since December "at least 400 doctors who we've been trying to recruit to come and work in the NHS in England haven't been able to enter the country and take up posts".

Meanwhile Ms Burcher's bosses have left her job open for now, hoping her second attempt at a visa will return her lifesaving skills to Britain.

But such a move is leaving vital services like health in the lurch. Source: 1 NEWS

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