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The Nursing profession provides one of the most transferrable skills in the world – and European states have become expert at attracting clinical professionals from other countries. As an example, it’s estimated that Romania has lost up to two-thirds of its doctors and nurses to other countries, most notably France, Germany and the UK.
So it’s with some surprise that the UK seems intent on enforcing as many as 3,365 of those nurses to return ‘home’ by 2017.
A new pay threshold for migrant workers introduced in 2011 means that people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) will have to leave the UK after six years if they are not earning at least £35,000.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said most nurses earn “nowhere near” £35,000, with statistics from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory suggesting that the median salary was closer to £25,000.
According to RCN research the number of employees likely to be affected by the rules would double to 6,620 by 2020, which could mean a potential waste of nearly £40m when all the costs of recruitment are taken into account.
Carter said severe cuts to nurse training places and caps on agency spending was “forcing” NHS trusts to recruit from overseas to make up staffing levels in the UK.
“The immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services,” he said.
“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.”
“The UK will be sending away nurses who have contributed to the health service for six years. Losing their skills and knowledge and then having to start the cycle again and recruit to replace them is completely illogical.
“Without a change to these immigration rules the NHS will continue to pay millions of pounds to temporarily rent nurses from overseas,” he added.
A spokesman for the Home Office said as the cut-off date for the new rules was set in 2011, employers had “time to prepare for the possibility their non-EEA workers may not meet the required salary threshold to remain in the UK permanently”.
But Carter added that the “global nursing shortage” would make government plans for a seven-day NHS service in the UK “unsustainable”.
“The only way for the UK to regain control over its own health service workforce is by training more nurses. 37,000 potential nursing students were turned away last year so there are people out there who want to embark on a nursing career,” he said.
Speaking at the British Medical Association annual conference today, council chair, Dr Mark Porter, warned of the growing gulf between what patients have been promised by government policies and the reality on the ground.
“We were told immigrants are filling up our GP surgeries and our hospitals,” he said.
“Well, they are. They’re called doctors, and nurses, and porters, and cleaners, and clinical scientists. And without them, the NHS would be on its knees,” he added.
The RCN is calling on the government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold – and the team here at Resource Central hopes common sense prevails, allowing critical talent to remain in the UK, for the benefit of all.
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Top Image Credit: Academic Progression in Nursing
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