A FRONTLINE NHS worker who has worked at a cancer hospital throughout the coronavirus crisis has been told she is no longer welcome in the UK.

Jessica Forsyth is being sent back to Australia despite performing a vital role as a medical secretary at a leading cancer unit in Scotland.

Her case has been described as “shocking, cruel and unjust” by MP Patrick Grady, who has made repeated pleas to the Home Office to have a change of heart.

The 31-year-old’s youth mobility visa expires next Saturday and she has been barred from applying for a general work visa because she is deemed “unskilled” and earns below the £30,000 threshold.

Forsyth, who worked her last shift on Friday, told the Sunday National she now regarded Scotland as her home and found it “very upsetting” that she had been refused permission to stay.

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“I don’t want to go – it wasn’t my choice,” she said. “The part I find the most bizarre is the emphasis on NHS staff working throughout this time and it does not seem to have helped me in any way. That’s not the reason I have been working – I would have done it anyway – but it is surprising that it has not had any sort of beneficial impact on my situation.”

Forsyth, who worked as a medical secretary in Australia before coming to Scotland, said she wanted to stay and continue to help patients through the current crisis.

“I would like to think I am doing important work and I know that my patients and colleagues do think that,” she said.

“I would call it a skilled job. I certainly don’t think it is anything that anyone could walk in off the streets and do. You have to have some medical knowledge and I would not be able to do it if I did not understand the terminology.

“It involves scheduling all outpatient appointments, handling the correspondence for the doctors and if the patients call, I am the first person they speak to. I am a link between them and the doctors.

“Once I spent over an hour on the phone to one particular patient because her husband had just died. These people are sick and need someone who understands what they are going through.”

Forsyth came to live and work in Scotland in 2018 and said that once she arrived she didn’t want to leave.

“It feels like home to be perfectly honest. I do absolutely love it here. The time I have spent here have been the best years of my life – Covid months excepting, though even that would not have deterred me from staying.

“I am so happy with the life I have built here for myself after having moved alone and not knowing a soul. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming and I have found it very upsetting that I will have to go home when I would have so loved to stay.”

She added that she was sad to be leaving her friends and colleagues as well as her job as she was proud of the work she had done.

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Forsyth said she first realised she might have a problem last year when she looked for a more permanent option of staying and found she did not qualify for a general working visa. The salary threshold is due to drop to £25,600 in January when Brexit officially kicks in but Forsyth said she still fell just short of that.

“I have yet to meet anyone in the community who is not shocked at the circumstances I’ve found myself in,” she said.

The National:

GRADY, SNP MP for Glasgow North (above), has been helping her since January and raised her case in the House of Commons again on Friday. He has also written to the Minister for Immigration, Kevin Foster, but said he had yet to receive a “substantive” reply. “It’s shocking, cruel and unjust that people like Jessica are being forced to leave Scotland when she wants to stay and continue to support the NHS and patients in the middle of a health pandemic,” said Grady.

“The minimum salary threshold and skill level requirements for the Tier 2 general visa category are arbitrary and discriminatory. The suggestion that anyone working in our NHS and social care sector is ‘unskilled’ is insulting. Every job that is carried out – from medical secretaries to domestic assistant cleaners and social care workers – is essential and takes a great deal of skill and knowledge.”

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He said it was crucial Scotland did not lose “highly valued key workers” like Forsyth, particularly at a time when her knowledge and skill was essential.

“She has been the first friendly face many people have seen when going through cancer treatment and has built important relationships with patients and been an integral part of her team,” said Grady.

“Like many others, she has made Scotland her home and built her life here. Key workers on the front line have made huge sacrifices over the last three months and they deserve to be valued and welcomed in our country.”

He called on the UK Government to rethink its plans for the new immigration system urgently, and tailor it to respond to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Now, more than ever, it’s clear we need immigration powers to be devolved to Scotland so that we can adapt them to our unique demographic, economic and social needs,” he said.

A UK Government spokesperson told the Sunday National: “We are incredibly grateful for all the hard work that health workers and care workers continue to do during the coronavirus crisis, and right across the immigration system we are supporting frontline workers by introducing free one-year visa extensions, exemptions from the NHS surcharge and expanding the bereavement scheme.

“The two-year Youth Mobility Scheme is designed to give young people a temporary experience of living and working in the UK. It is open to people to apply to stay in the UK through different routes if they meet the immigration requirements.”