New research which suggests that changes to immigration rules could intensify the severe shortage of nurses in the UK, compromise patient safety and cost the health service millions has been published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today.
According to the new rules, people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must be earning £35,000 or more before they are allowed to stay in the UK after six years. These rules will force many nurses to return to their home countries, leaving hospitals with nothing to show for the millions of pounds spent on recruiting them.
In its report – International Recruitment 2015 – the RCN has calculated that up to 3365 nurses currently working in the UK will potentially be affected and estimates that it will have cost the NHS £20.19m to recruit them – money which will have been wasted if they are forced to leave the UK.
It is thought that the effects of the new rules will begin to start being felt in 2017.
“Due to cuts to nurse training places, trusts are being forced into relying on overseas recruitment, as well as temporary staff, just to provide safe staffing”, said Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN. “A cap on agency spending will make one of these options more difficult, and these immigration rules will limit the other.
“The immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services. At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas. The NHS has spent millions hiring nurses from overseas in order to provide safe staffing levels. These rules will mean that money has just been thrown down the drain.”
Dr Carter believes that the only way for the UK to regain control over its own health service workforce is to train more nurses. He said: “37,000 potential nursing students were turned away last year so there are people out there who want to embark on a nursing career. There are clear signs of a global nursing shortage, meaning an ongoing reliance on overseas recruitment is not just unreliable but unsustainable. Unless we expand training and have enough nurses in this country, we will also be at the mercy of global trends which we can’t control.
“The UK has always benefited from attracting some of the most talented and caring nurses in the world and overseas nurses will continue to play a vital role in our health services. But an over reliance on their recruitment is not in anyone’s best long term interests.”
The report – International Recruitment 2015 – can be accessed on the RCN website.